Los Angeles Angels News – Matt Joyce Hitting Cleanup?


Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com reports that Matt Joyce may be called upon to function as the cleanup hitter for the Los Angeles Angels against right-handed pitching early in the 2015 season. When the Angels’ acquired the veteran outfielder from the Tampa Bay Rays this past December, it was assumed he would hit second in the Halos’ lineup. At the winter meetings, manager Mike Scioscia suggested Mike Trout would make the long awaited transition to the number three spot in the Angels’ order. However, this was before it was announced Josh Hamilton could miss the first two months of the season after undergoing shoulder surgery.

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Hitting Matt Joyce second in the Angels’ lineup is an intriguing idea. This would mean Joyce would hit in front of Mike Trout. This concept would likely give the Angels their best chance for success in 2015. Joyce’s .250 career batting average is not overly impressive, but he has registered a .342 on base percentage over the course of his seven-year career. Speed is not Joyce’s primary game, but he is a patient hitter and does a nice job working the count. Joyce expressed his excitement over the possibility of batting second in a recent interview, saying “To hit in front of Trout, I could fall in love with that.” The 30-year-old outfielder has never scored more than 69 runs in a single season, that would likely change in 2015 if he is tasked with setting the table for Mike Trout and Albert Pujols.

The Angels’ batting order was pretty well set heading into spring training with Kole Calhoun in the leadoff spot, Joyce batting second, then Trout, Pujols batting cleanup, and Josh Hamilton holding down the fifth spot. However, this all changed a few weeks ago when news broke Hamilton was to undergo shoulder surgery and will miss 6-8 weeks. General Manager Jerry Dipoto informed us last week that Hamilton’s recovery has been slower than originally expected, and Hamilton may end up missing 12 weeks. This would leave the Angels without their everyday left fielder until the end of May. Obviously, the recent injury to Hamilton has forced the Halos to come up with a backup plan.

“To hit in front of Trout, I could fall in love with that.” – Matt Joyce

It seems the new plan may be to bump Trout up into his familiar number two position, then slide Pujols into the third spot, and install Matt Joyce as the Angels’ cleanup hitter. With Hamilton likely to miss the first 6-8 weeks of the 2015 season, Joyce and Calhoun appear to be the only left-handed hitters who will be in the opening day starting lineup. putting some distance between the two left-handed bats will be critical, hence Joyce makes a lot of sense batting cleanup.

Prior to being dealt to the big A this winter, Matt Joyce had been a fixture in the heart of the Rays lineup in each of the last four seasons. Joyce has hit 88 home runs and driven in 313 runs over the course of 2182 career at bats. He has posted an impressive .441 career slugging percentage, and an OPS of .783. 2011 was Joyce’s best season as a pro. He represented the Rays at the 2011 mid summer classic after hitting .277 with 19 home runs, 75 RBI’s, and 13 stolen bases across a career high 141 games. Matt Joyce has the requisite pop to excel in the middle of the Halos order in 2015.

The next question is where to hit Mike Trout. The Millville, NJ product spent his first two campaigns hitting leadoff for the Angels, but last season he transitioned to the number two spot. Trouty excelled, earning his first American League Most Valuable Player award in 2015. Trout took advantage of batting lower in the order by posting career highs in home runs and RBI’s last season. His performance was a big reason the Angels led the league with 98 wins, but surprisingly, his statistics took a hit in a number of areas. Trout hit under .300 for the first time in his career, and his .939 OPS was the lowest mark of his career. He really struggled to hit the high fastball, and his league leading 184 strikeouts are a product of this. He tallied 33 stolen bases in 2013, but that number plummeted to just 16 in 2014.

August 9, 2014; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Mike Trout (27) hits a single in the first inning against the Boston Red Sox at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Many pundits have wondered if the time has come to thrust Mike Trout into the number three spot in the Angels’ batting order. I personally think the numbers Trouty could produce batting third in the Halos lineup could set new bench marks for baseball. He is by far the most gifted player in the sport, and typically a team’s best offensive contributor bats third. However, seldom is your best hitter also your fastest player. Some argue his speed will be a nonfactor batting third, and that batting second will net Trouty more at bats than batting third. I would add that Trout’s incredible base running ability would give the Angels their best chance to score runs. However, if Trout is not given the freedom to be aggressive on the base paths, as seemed to be the case in 2014, I would prefer to utilize the Halos best power threat out of the number three spot.

Obviously, Mike Trout will produce wherever he hits in 2015. Whether he bats second or third, Trout is a safe bet to eclipse the .300 mark, club 30 home runs and drive in 100 runs. I expect the Angels to play around this spring with Trout batting third, but ultimately due to the unpredictability of Josh Hamilton’s body, Trout will likely function as the club’s number two hitter this season.

Matt Joyce should get a chance to handle the cleanup role early in the 2015 season. Depending on what he does with the opportunity, he could stay in the heart of the order once Hamilton returns, or he could slide down in the lineup. For the first time in his career, Joyce is going to get the chance to get consistent at bats against left-handed pitching. A strong showing from Joyce in 2015 could go a long way towards easing the pain of what appears to be another injury plagued season from Josh Hamilton.

Next: Angels Spring Training Updates

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