At the time of the trade, receiving minor league second baseman Joe Wendle for All-Star Brandon Moss didn’t appease many in the fan base. Wendle battled injuries in 2014, leading to a total of just 93 games played. Moss on the other hand was coming off of a huge wild card game against the Kansas City Royals, smashing two home runs and driving in five in a game that the Oakland Athletics would ultimately lose. Yet, in an offseason full of turnover for Oakland, this is the one trade that most will point to as a head scratcher.
Joe Wendle has one tool that all scouts seem to agree upon: the kid can flat-out hit. As Susan Slusser reported yesterday, Bob Melvin said of Wendle’s bat, “Great swing, great swing — any time you see a guy go up there with no batting gloves, usually they can hit. … You can see why we like him. A lot was made of that trade, but we feel like he has a chance to be a heck of a player.”
The biggest jump in the minor leagues is from A-ball to Double-A, second only to the jump from Triple-A to the majors. As Baseball Prospectus put it, “The consistency of good stuff that hitters see there necessitates an adjustment period for all but an elite (or lucky) few prospects. For Wendle, that period lasted a month and marred what was an otherwise fine Wendle-like season.
He struggled mightily in April, hitting under .200 for the month, before righting himself in May and taking off in June.” They went on to discuss how his hamate injury kept Wendle from making a full recovery of his stat line.
That line is still quite good, however. In 87 games in Akron, Wendle hit .253 with an on-base percentage of .311 while hitting eight home runs and driving in 50. His strikeout rate went from 14.1% of his plate appearances in his previous two minor league seasons to a slightly higher 15.1% in 2014. This will be something to keep an eye on throughout the coming year, and could be a good indictor of how Wendle is performing.
If his strikeout rate stays in the 14-15% range, there shouldn’t be much cause for concern, but if we see it jump up to 18-20%, he may be overmatched.
Baseball Prospectus has Wendle’s ceiling as an average major-leaguer, while his floor is a utility/bench option. While this may not be what fans of the Oakland Athletics want to hear as the return for their All-Star first baseman, moving forward, this could be an equal value trade. Moss is coming off of surgery and there is no guarantee that he’ll be the player that the fans in Oakland have come to know and love.
The full report on Baseballprospectus.com is as follows, “Wendle brings a solid approach to the plate, where he understands his strengths and takes his at-bats in a manner conducive for success. While his fringe power is likely not an asset, Wendle can provide enough power to potentially hit eight to 10 homers at the highest level, with a good share of doubles. His gap-to-gap style of hitting has been displayed at every level throughout the minors, and he was able to put some of the questions about being too old for his current level behind him.
The Athletics are comfortable keeping him at second base, with Wendle lacking the pure athleticism and range to play as a utility option on the left side of the diamond. Overall, Wendle’s OFP hinges on the hit tool, but the second baseman has shown encouraging signs throughout his development. Oakland will have Wendle as depth heading into this season, with potential for him to become a larger piece down the road.”
“Potential” seems to be the keyword for the Oakland Athletics’ offseason. Some players are bound to not pan out, but with 28 fresh faces in camp, a handful of them are going to work out, too. Wendle should be an exciting player to keep an eye on, especially with his gap-to-gap approach at the plate, which could work very well in the friendly confines of O.Co.
Wendle will likely start the season in Triple-A Nashville and could receive a look in the big leagues if one of a number of players goes down this season.