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Matt Joyce Auditioning For Rays Centerfield Opening

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Seemingly out of nowhere, Matt Joyce has become a contender in the sweepstakes to temporarily replace B.J. Upton in centerfield. Up until this week, most figured the Ben Zobrist would handle the duties and possibly split time with Gabe Kapler or Justin Ruggiano. While Andrew Friedman suggests that Ruggiano is still a possibility, the emergence of Joyce this week makes that less likely.  

Recently, we've covered the offensive part of Joyce's game and we've all heard and talked about how he is a plus defender in the corner outfield, but his name has never been mentioned in center until now.

Joyce missed the better part of a month with "right leg tendinitis" and just re-joined the club this week. He made his centerfield debut Thursday night and seemed to come out of it fine. Joyce played 85 games in the outfield for Detroit last year with all of them coming either in right or leftfield. In Triple-A, he played 54 games in the outfield with 14 of them coming in center. The other 40 were as right fielder, or the position most of us envision him playing for the next six plus years in a Rays uniform.

With limited data, it is hard to project what type of fielder he would be in center, but we can try. Using TotalZone, Joyce was a -1 in centerfield in the minor leagues. That means he is slightly below league average, but not bad. The problem is we are dealing with a small sample size.

If you use CHONE's defensive projection which also uses TotalZone, and measures it over the last five seasons, you'll find that Joyce rates as a +7 corner outfielder, and again, a -1 in centerfield. Joyce only has about a half season of data, however, we can look at other +7 corner outfielders and maybe get a glimpse of what to expect. Here are the other corner outfielders who have a +7 rating:

  • Jody Gerut
  • Matt Murton
  • Scott Podsednik
  • Ichiro Suzuki
  • Randy Winn
  • Austin Kearns
  • Aaron Rowand
  • Chris Young

Not bad defensive company to keep. Here is how those outfielders rank in centerfield.

Gerut

0

Murton

0

Podsednik

0

Suzuki

0

Winn

0

Kearns

0

Rowand

0

Young

-1

All rate average or in the case of Chris Young, like Joyce, he ranks just below at -1. In case you're wondering. B.J. Upton is a +8 in the corner and a 0 in centerfield. Remember, this is a three year average.

Again, we are dealing with a small sample size in the minor leagues and pure speculation at the major league level, but from the info that's available it doesn't seem outlandish to think Joyce could be a -5 < x < 0 in centerfield if the Rays choose to go that route.