The Oakland A’s placed outfielder Matt Joyce on the 10-day disabled list Wednesday with a lumbar (back) strain, the team announced. To replace him on the 25-man roster, they called up outfielder Nick Martini from Triple-A Nashville. There was an open spot on the 40-man roster, so no further moves were needed to add Martini.
Joyce left the A’s game on Saturday in the 5th inning with lower back tightness. After sitting out the next two games plus an off-day, he’ll now head to the shelf to finish recovering. This is the first time he’s ever missed time to a back injury, reports Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle. The problem dates back to long before last weekend’s flareup, and he’ll have an MRI on Thursday, says Slusser.
The 33-year-old has struggled at the plate this season. He began slowly last year too but had begun to heat up by this point. He’s walking and striking out at roughly his normal rates, and he’s hitting for solid power, but he hasn’t been able to consistently get hits to fall and is still wrestling with the Mendoza Line in June. His style of hitting (lots of flyballs) can naturally lead to low BABIP marks, but his current .222 seems like a good bet to rise as time goes on — but now that will have to wait until he regains his health.
Joyce, 2018: .196/.308/.369, 88 wRC+, 7 HR, 13.6% BB, 23.1% Ks
With Joyce out of action, and fellow outfielder Stephen Piscotty also likely to miss Wednesday with a quad issue (reported by Slusser), the A’s are digging deep within their depth chart to find help. Martini, who turns 28 later this month, was signed last winter as a minor league free agent. This is the first time in his career that he’s gotten a call to the majors, so if/when he takes the field we’ll have an MLB debut on our hands. I wrote the following about him before the season:
[Martini] was drafted by the Cardinals in 2011, and spent his entire career with them until now. He’s spent the last three years in the upper minors, and he’s controlled the strike zone masterfully in that time (12.5% BB, 15.0% Ks). However, he doesn’t hit for much power at all, so he needs to get on base at a high rate to remain productive. On defense he’s played all three outfield positions in his career, split about 40-40-20 between center, right, and left. He’s a pure lefty who will turn 28 during the summer.
Since then, Martini has spent all of 2018 with Triple-A Nashville. He was quiet in April but began to heat up in May, and his current 12-game hitting streak has vaulted him up to become arguably the Sounds best hitter (by measure of wRC+). Between that success and his high-OBP profile, he’s served as the team’s leadoff man for most of the last month. He’s played all three outfield positions this year, but Nashville’s crowded lineup has also forced him to spend substantial time at 1B.
Martini, 2018 AAA: .299/.417/.390, 123 wRC+, 3 HR, 16.7% BB, 19.4% Ks
He’s also 5-of-6 in stolen base attempts. Here’s his more recent performance, over the last 30 games (133 plate appearances):
Martini, May/June: .339/.429/.452, 140 wRC+, 3 HR, 12.8% BB, 18.8% Ks
Assuming Piscotty is out for the moment, the A’s healthy outfielders currently include Martini, Dustin Fowler, Mark Canha, Chad Pinder, and DH Khris Davis. They also have Jake Smolinski on the 40-man, and he’s hitting well in Triple-A (6 HR in 17 games), but it’s worth noting that Martini joins Fowler as the only lefties in this present group.
Did I think Martini would appear in Oakland this year? Not specifically, no. But he has the exact profile that I tend to fall in love with when it comes to fringe prospects — versatile, jack of most/all trades, and with a particular strength in plate discipline. If you squint, he’s got some vague similarities to Jaycob Brugman, a long-time favorite of mine.
The .500ish A’s aren’t exactly beating down the doors to the postseason right now, and the player(s) he’s replacing aren’t the ones carrying the team to their wins anyway, so I’m thrilled to get a look at one of the veteran depth flyers. After all, this year is the time to try stuff out and see what happens, within reason. The likely result is that he doesn’t stick and just briefly fills this hole in the lineup, like Jaff Decker and many more before him, but if anyone is good at finding diamonds in the rough it’s Oakland. At the very least, you have to figure that Nico will drool at the thought of adding a Martini.
Welcome to the Show, Nick!
Sean Manaea (L)
Daniel Mengden (R)
Trevor Cahill (R)
Frankie Montas (R)
Blake Treinen (R)
Yusmerio Petit (R)
Lou Trivino (R)
Danny Coulombe (L)
Chris Hatcher (R)
Liam Hendriks (R)
Ryan Dull (R)
Emilio Pagain (R)
Jonathan Lucroy (R)
Bruce Maxwell (L)
Josh Phegley (R)
Matt Olson (L)
Jed Lowrie (S)
Marcus Semien (R)
Matt Chapman (R)
Khris Davis (R)
Stephen Piscotty (R)
Dustin Fowler (L)
Mark Canha (R)
Chad Pinder (R)
Nick Martini (L)
10-day DL: RHP Daniel Gossett (elbow), RHP Andrew Triggs (triceps), LHP Brett Anderson (shoulder), RHP Santiago Casilla (shoulder), LHP Ryan Buchter (shoulder), OF Matt Joyce (back), OF Boog Powell (knee)
60-day DL: RHP Jharel Cotton (TJS), RHP Paul Blackburn (forearm strain)