Every weekday for the next few weeks you'll find a look back at the 2014 season for one of the Indians or Indians prospects, as we sort out what happened and what it means for the franchise going forward.
- Position: 2B
- Age: 24
- Acquired: 6th round of 2012 draft
In 2013 Joe Wendle put up big numbers for High-A Carolina. There was a nice uptick in both his power numbers and his walk rate, and he was named Indians Minor League Player of the Year. He was promoted to Double-A Akron for the start of this season, and the hope was that he could maintain the gains he'd made while facing tougher competition.
Wendle got off to a very rough start. Through the end of a doubleheader on May 3, Wendle was batting just .180/.281/.290, with only 6 extra-base hits in 100 AB. His walk and strikeout rates were pretty close to what he'd put up the year before, but he wasn't hitting the ball especially hard, and wasn't having much luck with weaker contact falling in for hits.
It took those first few weeks of the season for Wendle to make some adjustment and catch up with the increased level of play, but he did make those adjustments and did catch up, and from that point on, he hit very well. Over the next eight weeks Wendle batted .301/.336/.505, with a much better strikeout rate, and 25 extra-base hits in 196 AB, better than four times the rate he'd collected them earlier in the season. Notably, he was not aided by anything that would seem like abnormal good luck. His BABIP of .323 during that stretch was actually lower than his full-season figure for 2012 or 2013.
Unfortunately, on June 26th Wendle suffered a broken right hamate (which is a bone in the wrist), which required surgery. He missed the next six weeks. After a week-long rehab assignment in the Arizona League (rookie ball), he returned to Akron for the final two weeks of the season, but was unable to get back to what he'd been doing before the injury, going just 8 for 39 with only a couple extra-base hits.
Because of the slow start and the rehab-hindered finish, Wendle's overall batting line for the year (.253/.311/.414) doesn't look very good. It's basically league average for the Eastern League (his wRC+ was 98), which isn't bad for a 24-year-old (just a bit younger than league average), but isn't good either. I think it's reasonable to put much less emphasis on a player's first few weeks at a new level though, because it's understandable if they struggle, and what you want to see is if they can adjust. Wendle's May and June numbers were really good, and I think he's still on track to develop into someone the Indians can use.
2014 grade: C+
I would think Wendle will start out with Akron again. I'm sure Indians brass was pleased with how he hit after that first month or so, but I think they'll want to see him have success for more than eight weeks before moving him another rung up the ladder. If he gets off to a solid start though, he could certainly be in Columbus by midseason, and it's not out of the question to think he could see some time with the Indians in 2015, if a couple guys suffer an injury or really struggle.