After shocking the baseball world by trading away his best hitter and a top 5 MVP candidate, Oakland A's GM Billy Beane has begun his yearly roster shuffle to put his team in the best position for 2015 and the future. This time he sent his best remaining power threat in Brandon Moss to the Cleveland Indians in exchange for AA second baseman Joe Wendle. Let's take a more in-depth look at Wendle, who just went from third or fourth on the depth chart with Cleveland to one of the top spots on the list in Oakland.
Photo courtesy of Joseph Coblitz
The Cleveland Indians selected Joe Wendle in the 6th round of the 2012 draft out of perennial powerhouse West Chester University of Pennsylvania. The 5'11, 190 pound Delaware native took a meager $10,000 signing bonus as a senior sign and got to work tearing up the New York-Penn League, as he should have, being 22 years old. The next year he was jumped a level to A+ Carolina in the Carolina League where he hit .295/.372/.513 with a 143 wRC+, .398 wOBA, .327 BABIP, and a .218 isolated power. Wendle had 43 extra base knocks in 474 plate appearances including 32 doubles, 16 homers and five triples, drawing 44 walks (9.3%) to 79 strike outs (16.7%) with 10 stolen bases in 12 attempts. He didn't show any home/road splits but was dangerous against right handed pitchers, tagging them to a .320/.393/.546 triple slash with 12 of his 16 homers and a 32:54 BB:K ratio. Southpaws handled him much better, limiting the left handed hitter to a .224/.315/.421 line. On defense he committed 13 errors in 502 chances for a .974 fielding percentage at second base.
Wendle made the jump to AA Akron of the Eastern League for the 2014 season, hitting .260/.317/.432 before going down with a broken hamate bone June 26th. He wasn't quite the same afterward despite mashing in a rehab appearance in the Arizona League. In 11 games back he was just 8-39 with a double and a triple. For the year he hit .265/.326/.425 in 396 plate appearances with 35 extra base hits including 21 doubles, eight homers, and six triples. He drew 30 walks (7.6%) to 60 strike outs (15.2%) with five stolen bases, a 106 wRC+, a .337 wOBA, and .296 BABIP. Wendle showed more power against right handers (.258/.316/.450 in 263 PA's) while making better contact against southpaws (.282/.348/.376 in 132 PA's). He's also more of a fly ball hitter, putting the ball into the outfield 7% more than the average Eastern League player while maintaining a league-average line drive rate. While handling second base duties he made only eight errors in 466 chances, improving his fielding percentage nine points to .983.
Just about all of Wendle's value lies in his bat which could be above average at the keystone. He makes good hard contact with an idea of what he's doing at the plate. The swing is short with average power potential, including doubles by the bunches. He's quick in the field but not on the bases, showing more agility and lateral range than straight-line speed. In the dirt he's got sure hands with average arm strength and solid range. Depending on how the BABIP gods treat him, he could wind up hitting .260-.275 in his prime with 10 or so bombs and 25-30 doubles, maybe more with O.Co's gaps. If his wrist bounces back to full strength quickly, he could challenge Eric Sogard for the second base gig as soon as 2015 in his age 25 season.
2014 AZL stats
2014 AA stats
While Brandon Moss has established himself as a legitimate power threat with at least 20 home runs the last three years with Oakland, he is entering his age 31 season and is about to go into his second year of arbitration eligibility. His first run through arbitration netted him $4.1M with his 25 home runs in 2014 certainly helping his case, and he's projected to earn a $3M raise via MLBTR his second time through. He split time between first base and the outfield corners last year, garnering an invite to the All-Star game on the heels of a .268/.349/.530 first half with 21 home runs. He limped to the finish line though with a .173/.310/.274 triple slash after the break while battling right hip problems. Offseason surgery hopefully will take care of what ailed him, though he is beginning the decline phase of his physical peak.
Three years of Moss for six of Wendle looks like a win for the Wahoo's. That could all change depending on Moss's recovery from injury, but the thump he provides solidifies the middle of the line up. As long as his hip issues are old news he fits as Carlos Santana's protection in the five hole. It's another case where it makes sense from both sides and doesn't look like one team was fleeced by another as Wendle still has the opportunity to flourish in Oakland once his own injuries fully heal. As long as he's healthy enough to hit, the A's have team control over the majority of his physical prime.