Matt Joyce shocked a lot of the baseball world last season. Few hitters ran more hot and cold than Joyce in 2012. The Rays outfielder looked like an American League MVP Award candidate through May, did not hit a lick in June or July, then rebounded with a couple decent months in August and September. Overall in 2011 Joyce finished the season hitting .277, 19 homers, 75 RBI and a .347 OBP in 141 games. Matt had never played this much in his entire career. Joyce was selected to the 2011 American League All-Star team last summer. He helped lead the slow paced Rays bats back to the playoffs in 2011 with a Wild Card berth.
Looking at all this, one would wonder where has this Matt Joyce been for the last five years? In 2010 alone, Joyce hit .241 with 10 homers, 40 RBI’s and a .360 OBP in just 77 games. Joyce jumped from a season with 216 at bats to 462 at bats in 2011. It was a major opportunity that Joyce had with Tampa last year and he made the most of it. It is possible that Joyce could have had the capability to do this all along. In 2010, when he had little playing time, he had a .360 on-base percentage. In 2011, he had a .347 on-base percentage. Joyce has had similar OBP's, so he should always have around a .350 on-base percentage no matter how many at bats he has. With getting on base, he will also have more homers and RBI the more playing time he has. The more you play Joyce, the more production he gives you.
All of these stats point out the obvious fact that Matt Joyce had a breakout year in 2011. But is this Matt Joyce’s ceiling? Can Joyce step out even bigger than he had this year, or is he just a .270 hitter with 20 homers and 75 RBI guy every season? If you ask me, I think Matt Joyce has not hit his plateau. Joyce swung at a ton of balls up and out of the zone last year leading to his 106 strikeouts. Matt Joyce could cut down that number if he becomes more disciplined. He also needs to start hitting sliders and curveballs better; he hit those against right-handed pitchers .143 and .200 respectively. Also, Joyce can improve his hitting against left-handed pitchers. It’s gotten to the point where he doesn’t hit against lefties in the lineup. In the American League some of the best pitchers are lefties, so if Matt can learn to hit better against them, it could be a big help for him and the Rays. Joyce has room to improve, and if he works on his mechanics he could be even better than he was in 2011. ESPN.com projects him to hit .260 with 17 homers and .329 OBP. I think those are low numbers for Joyce and he will do a lot better than that. I believe Joyce could breakout this season and hit .280 with 25 homers and 100 RBI’s. I think he could establish himself as one of the best outfielders in the American League this year. His spring stats sure support him in 8 games. He is 6 for 21, with 2 home runs and has a .571 slugging percentage. Hopefully Joyce has his breakout year this year when the Rays need him the most.
Do you think Matt Joyce will have his breakout year this year? I would love to know your thoughts. Please feel free to comment below or message me on Twitter @ASommers5.