Over the past couple weeks, I've heard Matt Joyce used several times as an example of someone who's not an all-star, or who's a surprising all-star. The Yankees broadcasters wonderingly pointed out that he had made the all-star team in 2011, and Bryan Joiner of Over The Monster used him as an example of someone, like Daniel Nava, who was just having a good season but we all know isn't really that good.
Do we all know this?
Yes, Matt Joyce is having a good season. He's currently tied (with Coco Crisp) for second (behind only Mike Trout) in wRC+ among AL outfielders with a 129 wRC+. What's more, there's nothing fluky about his numbers. He's doing this with the lowest BABIP of his career, at .257 (career .286). And it's not like Joyce's hitting ability is unexpected. Since he broke into the majors in 2010, Joyce has been the eighth best AL outfielder by wRC+.
I wrote previously that I think rest of season projections are a good way of determining true talent and all-star worthiness. Using the ZiPS RoS projections at FanGraphs, we can see that Matt Joyce is currently projected to be tenth best hitting AL outfielder by wOBA going forward (.343 wOBA). Now if you'll pardon (or improve) my crude napkin math for a second, applying The Trop's 95 park factor brings that wOBA to .361, which would make him the fourth best AL outfielder. Last I checked, the game starts with three outfielders, and then they sub out.
Of course, there are two elephants in the room with Matt Joyce: his splits, and his defense.
As for his splits, I don't care. Yes he carries a big split. Yes he hits righties far better than he hits lefties. But he's on the long side of the platoon, and some very interesting research by our own Michael Valencius showed that he's faced an unusually high number of "tough lefties," enlarging his split. What's more, the all-star game is the perfect place for a hitter with a wide split. If he's only going to get one at bat anyway, Jim Leyland can make sure it's against a righty.
The last qualm you might have is with Matt Joyce's defense. He hasn't looked comfortable in the outfield this year, and UZR backs that up, pegging him as nearly eight runs below average so far. Still, I think there's room to hope for improvement. He's a fine athlete, and a two years ago UZR thought he was an above average right fielder. He hasn't put on weight or visibly lost his wheels. He's not Raul Ibanez or Pat Burrell. And one more thing. That .361 ZiPS RoS projection. It would be better than Billy Butler, Lance Berkman, or Paul Konerko, all contenders for the DH roster spots. Matt Joyce should be an all-star.