After two short stints with Oakland, the Rays have given their new super utility man the chance to shine.
A couple months back, I wrote about how Joey Wendle was quietly putting together a solid rookie season with the Rays. That was written back on June 20th when the Rays were 34-40 and 12 games back of a playoff spot. Fast forward to today, August 24th, and the Rays are arguably the best story in baseball at 67-61 and just nine games back. Wendle was a key part of the Rays in June and he’s become an even bigger part of their success in August.
The answer to the title question is simple – no, Wendle is not having the best season in Rays history by a rookie. Given the fact that he wasn’t on the radar as far as rookies anyone was talking about seeing this season, what he has done is quite remarkable.
The all-time best Rays rooks
Where does Wendle’s 2018 rank on the all-time best seasons by a rookie in team history? They’ve had three win the AL Rookie of the Year award in their 20 years in existence. Most notably, Evan Longoria in 2008. RHP Jeremy Hellickson won the award in 2011 and OF Wil Myers was the last to win it in 2013.
All three have had respectable careers since winning the award. Longoria will go down as the best player through the first twenty years in the team’s history by a wide margin. Hellickson has bounced around since leaving the Rays in 2015 but has had some success elsewhere. Myers became an all-star in San Diego in 2016 and has moved to playing first base for the Padres.
Wendle had two stints with the Oakland Athletics, the team who gave him his MLB debut back in 2016. That year, he played in 28 games and then another eight games last season. Fast forward to Opening Day 2018. He’s cracked his first MLB Opening Day roster in Tampa and hasn’t looked back.
In 108 games this season, Wendle finds himself among the AL rookie leaders:
Runs – 42 (3rd)
Hits – 106 (2nd)
2B – 18 (3rd)
3B – 5 (1st)
RBI – 45 (5th)
SB – 8 (3rd)
Avg – .289 (2nd)
OB% – .340 (1st)
OPS – .762 (3rd)
In reality, the AL ROY is likely coming out of New York again. Though plenty have and will continue to keep an eye on the 28-year old super utility man down south. He has played four different positions in 2018 (2B, 3B, SS, LF, RF) and played them well. That fact is something neither Longoria nor Myers can claim.
Is Wendle in the plans?
I think it would be short-sighted to say Joey Wendle won’t be here next season. I’d go so far as to say he might have made a very good case to be the starting second baseman in 2019. Some have said he’s the closest thing to Ben Zobrist since “Zorilla” left back in 2015 after nine years with the Rays. Probably the most attractive thing about Wendle is his control. He isn’t arbitration-eligible until 2021 and has team control until 2024.
Willy Adames is the shortstop of the future and it seems Christian Arroyo will man third base beyond 2018. The Rays don’t appear to have a clear-cut choice at second. Wendle could have done them a favor with the year he’s had. Daniel Robertson would be his only competition, but having the two of them back next season would be an absolutely ideal scenario. Whether that happens or not won’t be answered for months. Is there any shot he notches the Rays fourth Rookie of the Year award? It certainly would be one more amazing story to cap off what’s turned into one of the more amazing seasons in franchise history.
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