The 2020 Major League season will begin with Matt Joyce a week shy of his 36th birthday.
At a time when most major leaguers are starting to wind down their careers, the Miami Marlins are going to be more reliant on Matt Joyce than was originally thought. With the universal designated hitter in effect for this season (and maybe forever), Matt Joyce is just the sort of player who could parlay the rule change into two or three more effective seasons.
In his age 34 season, Joyce put up the best OPS of his career, a mark of .858 over 238 plate appearances for the Atlanta Braves. That stat was only bested by Joyce in 2016, when he racked up a mark of .866 while playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Although Joyce has never threatened to win a Gold Glove, his 2019 defensive metrics show he was 22 defensive runs saved below the National League average when averaged over a conventional 1200 inning season. In fact, over the past five seasons, Joyce has failed to achieve a “league average” figure in the metric, falling below zero in every season since he was three runs above average in 2014 for the Tampa Bay Rays.
The universal designated hitter seems designed to stop pitchers from wasting plate appearances. Its not really the pitchers’ fault, they just don’t have as much exposure to hitting as do the position players coming through the minor leagues. This couldn’t have come at a better time for Joyce, who seems likely to be coming into a late-career offensive groove.
That’s not to say he can’t play outfield. He’s played in 569 games in right field and another 427 games in left field. He’s only appeared eight times in center field, so we won’t hold our breath for that. On each corner though? The Marlins have a plethora of choices to fill those spots. Joyce’s added utility is that he’s passable in right and in left in a pinch.
The 40-man roster already has Brian Anderson (RF), Garrett Cooper (RF), Corey Dickerson (LF), Harold Ramirez (RF, LF) and Jesus Sanchez (RF) available to play on the corners. The taxi squad has Sean Rodriguez, J.J. Bleday, and Jerar Encarnacion available on short notice.
Joyce is hardly a starter at this point, but I could easily see him as the “regular” DH in somewhere around 45 games in 2020 and 130 games in 2021. Thanks for reading.