Joyce, Larish analyzed
So, as Jason (!) noted below, and Baker blogged about the last couple of days, the Mariners and Tigers are almost certainly talking about a deal that would send J.J. Putz to Detroit. Speculation has the Mariners wanting some combination of prospects that would include Matt Joyce or Jeff Larish, as both are left-handed hitters with some power, and Zduriencik has made it no secret that his goal is to add some LH power to the roster.
Now, because both are guys that most non-Detroit fans will know little about, it’s easy to lump them together as similar prospects. They aren’t. Joyce is the far superior talent, and it’s not even close.
Larish is a 26-year-old with the classic first baseman skillset – significant raw pull power, a patient approach at the plate, and contact problems. He swings for the fences and his value lies in hitting the ball really far, hoping that it makes up for his lack of contact. His career minor league K% is around 25%, so he’s not Russ Branyan, but he’s going to strike out a lot. That lack of contact will keep his average in the .250 to .270 range, and even though he draws his fair share of walks and has power, that limits his absolute upside to something like a .260/.350/.500 player, and he’s only got about a 10% chance of being that good. Unless he developed into a plus defender (unlikely), that makes him an average player at best, and more likely he ends up having something like Eric Hinske’s career.
Joyce, on the other hand, has less power but a better spread of skills. Like Larish, he swings and misses a lot, and he won’t be a high average guy, but his significantly better athleticism allows him to provide real defensive value and a skill set that has room for growth. Tigers fans thought he was a pretty terrific defensive outfielder, and while the sample is way too small for it to have strong meaning, UZR agrees with their assessment. In many ways, he’s similar to Jayson Werth – an athletic OF with good defense, gap power, and enough walks to offset the strikeouts.
Honestly, I think Joyce has a better long term future than Wladimir Balentien, who I know many of you are still quite high on. The fact that he’s left-handed makes him a much better fit for Safeco, and his significantly better defense would be a welcome sight running around left field.
Honestly, I’d trade Putz for Joyce straight up, one for one. He’s probably something close to a league average corner outfielder right now (assuming that Tigers fans are right about his defense), at 24, with upside to get to a +3 or +3.5 win level. He’d also be under team control through 2014.
If the Tigers want to give the Mariners a package that includes Joyce and other stuff, it’s going to be a massive steal for the M’s. If it’s just Joyce, it’s still a great trade. If it’s Larish and stuff, then I’m less excited, but would still listen depending on what the other stuff was.