Matt Joyce & Platoon Partners | The Process Report

Matt Joyce & Platoon Partners

The field for potential right fielders against lefties shifts depending on where Ben Zobrist winds up. If he is the everyday first baseman, then Sean Rodriguez (and Zobrist) are out of the running. Elliot Johnson is the next utility guy in the line, but for now let’s assume the Rays will add an additional outfielder who is not Leslie Anderson to the roster.

The two most well-known options in the minors are Justin Ruggiano and Fernando Perez. Here’s a brief rundown on both:

Ruggiano turns 29 in April. He’s played in 433 games with Durham since being acquired in 2007. That’s 1,874 plate appearances with 61 home runs and a line of .288/.360/.469. He rebounded from a weak 2009 with an okay 2010 by hitting .287/.357/.453, which pales in comparison to the numbers he put up in 2007 and 2008. Attitude issues have always floated around Ruggiano’s name. Even his teammates call him Scrooge. He’s a cheap solution and out of options. There’s a decent chance he’s not even within the organization come opening day.

Perez is more like Ruggiano than you’d like to believe. He’ll be 28 in April and in a little over 1,000 Triple-A plate appearances he’s hit .261/.329/.353. He made his major league debut in 2008 and even scored the winning run in the Rays’ first League Championship Series game victory. Perez can play defense, so much so that even B.J. Upton offered to slide to right field in order to get Perez in the lineup daily. He’s a switch hitter but hasn’t done much hitting since 2008. Injuries have taken their toll and he’s put up lines of .245/.351/.306 and .223/.280/.299. Great background story and a brilliant guy. He’s probably too artistically and intellectually gifted to spend his time wasting away on a major league bench.

If neither appears too appealing that’s because they aren’t. If the Rays go looking outside the organization then someone like Chris Heisey (if he’s squeezed off the Reds’ roster) makes sense besides the Rays having someone the Reds could use (Jason Bartlett). Heisey hit .341/.432/.517 against lefties last season. His upside is limited and he’s more of a grinder type who plays good defense, but being moderately young and cheap are always endearing qualities.

The cheapest and easiest solution is to simply allow Matt Joyce to play daily regardless of pitcher. Does that help a young player develop? Does it pay any kind of dividends? Who knows. In Rays’ history, neither Aubrey Huff or Carl Crawford seemed to benefit greatly from playing against lefties. Crawford is still inept (and actually had his best seasons against lefties years ago) and Huff has been so-so for a while now. That’s limited proof, of course, and not really proof of anything since who knows how either would’ve faired against southpaws without that playing time.

Joyce is probably going to see more time in the lineup against same-handed pitchers in 2011; just not all the time and that’s probably how it will always be.



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