Joey Wendle can do it all. From a .271 career batting average to playing nearly every position in the infield, he has become the Miami Marlins’ Swiss Army knife. After joining the Marlins in November 2021, Wendle immediately established himself as one of the team’s most dependable players.
Despite this, he remains hungry for more. Wendle made it clear that he wanted to accomplish more in his first year as a member of the Fish. Miami finished fourth in the NL East last season with a record of 69-93. Wendle now hopes to make up for lost time in his second season with the Marlins.
“I feel like we really underperformed, as did I personally,” Wendle said. “It left a taste in your mouth that would make you work a little bit harder on the offseason and prepare for this season a little bit differently.”
With opening day now less than two weeks away, Wendle and the Marlins only have one thing on their minds: winning. Whenever they can, wherever they can and however they can.
An Impressive Resume Entering Miami
Wendle debuted in the MLB in 2016 with the Oakland Athletics. Although he received scarce playing time, he made the most out of every opportunity he received. After the 2017 season, the Tampa Bay Rays traded for Wendle, who swiftly established himself as the team’s starting second baseman. He finished 2018 with a .300 batting average, making him the first Rays player to do so since 2011.
Known power hitter. pic.twitter.com/0jp5YSzjsp
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) September 25, 2019
The Delaware native bounced back from an injury-shortened 2019 campaign, to help lead the Rays to their first World Series appearance since 2008 the following year. During the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, he started at least nine games each at second base, third base and shortstop. His versatility and work ethic cemented him as one of the Rays’ most important players during their run to the Fall Classic.
One year later, Wendle earned the first All-Star selection of his career. He finished his 2021 season with a .265 batting average and a .972 fielding percentage. Tampa Bay then shipped him to Miami the following offseason in exchange for 2019 first-round pick Kameron Misner. Since landing with the Marlins, Wendle has served as a spark plug for the team’s offense while also providing a valuable voice in the clubhouse.
“I just come in every day, try to get my work in, try to become a better baseball player that day, try to make the guys around me better baseball players,” Wendle said. “Hopefully, some of the younger guys feel comfortable coming to me and asking me questions. I’m happy to share any knowledge or wisdom, if you will, with anybody.”
Joey Wendle: Jack-of-all-Trades
Throughout his career, Wendle has always done whatever it takes to help his team win. His flexibility on defense proved to be valuable for Miami last season. Wendle split his time all over the infield in 2022, but he is expected to spend most of his games this year at shortstop. Miami traded Miguel Rojas, their regular shortstop, to the Dodgers this offseason, freeing up the position for Wendle.
Dealing with all this movement can be challenging for some players, but Wendle has handled it with ease. He emphasized that he feels stronger than ever when it comes to his defensive abilities. His main goal for the 2023 campaign is to improve his performance in the batter’s box.
“Right now, I feel pretty confident defensively. I’m in a good spot in the field, arm feels good, everything like that,” Wendle said. “Offensively, [I want to] become more consistent and consistently have quality at-bats where I’m putting good wood on the ball and swinging at strikes.”
Wendle still put up some respectable numbers at the plate in 2022. His .259 batting average and 24 doubles both ranked second for the Fish last year. Marlins manager Skip Schumaker said that Wendle spent the offseason fine-tuning his swing mechanics.
“When you watch Joey, he’s not going to give any at-bats away,” Schumaker said. “That’s who Joey is, he’s going to fight, he’s going to compete. He’s working with [hitting coach] Brant [Brown] right now on some swing changes.”
Making Miami His New Home
Needless to say, Wendle has been a welcome addition to a Marlins team that has struggled to put hits on the board in recent years. Miami recorded a .233 team batting average in 2021, ranking third-to-last in the MLB. Fans have chalked up the Wendle trade as one of the best moves Marlins GM Kim Ng has facilitated since she joined the organization in 2020.
— Bally Sports Florida: Marlins (@BallyMarlins) September 12, 2022
“Joey is just a really good baseball player. He has an understanding of situations and what we should be doing in every situation,” Ng said. “He’s been a bit of a catalyst for us on offense. He has good bat-to-ball skills, and going back to that situational acumen, Joey is just a great ball player, whether it’s defensively or offensively.”
The Marlins have undergone a fair amount of changes since acquiring Wendle. From hiring a new manager in Schumaker to trading starting pitcher Pablo Lopez to the Minnesota Twins for reigning American League batting champion Luis Arraez, the Fish completely revamped their clubhouse in the 2022 offseason. Wendle hopes that these changes will allow the Marlins to get back on track this upcoming year.
“A certain amount of it is just being a professional and knowing what to expect out of yourself every single day,” Wendle said. “There’s constantly things changing around you. The new staff is great. They’re all being professional, they’ve done this before. I don’t think the transition has been too challenging.”
Staying True To Himself
While he has proven himself as a certified star on the diamond, Wendle has also made it clear that he marches to the beat of his own drum. For instance, he is one of the only modern-day MLB players to not wear batting gloves, simply because he never liked wearing them growing up.
He also wears his faith on his sleeve with pride. Wendle chose “Nobody” by Christian rock band Casting Crowns as his walk-up music. Any time he hears the song play on the loanDepot park loudspeakers, he reminds himself why he plays this game.
“I play for an audience of one, not to make anybody else satisfied or glorified through my play other than my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” Wendle said. “If I can remain faithful and obedient to Him, love my teammates and play hard, then I feel like I’ve done a good job that day.”
Wendle is a humble, down-to-earth person. He quipped that he would prefer “the world knew very little about Joey Wendle.” Nonetheless, fans love him wherever he goes. From becoming a fan-favorite for the Rays during their World Series run in 2020 to immediately making a splash with the Fish, Wendle cannot help but earn new supporters wherever he goes.
He has also garnered respect from his teammates and coaches alike. Wendle established a close bond with Marlins catcher Jacob Stallings last season, thanks in part to their respective families.
“Jacob Stallings and I, we have kids of very similar ages, so we find ourselves hanging out on the off days quite frequently,” Wendle said. “I feel like I have a good relationship with most of my teammates… There’s a lot of good guys in this clubhouse.”
Ready To Make Some Noise
Where Wendle goes, winning usually follows. While that did not necessarily carry over for his first season with the Fish, he is more than ready to put the baseball world on notice in 2023. The reloaded Marlins hope to make their first postseason appearance overall since 2020 and their first appearance in a full season since 2003.
Wendle has a chance to play a major role in this year’s lineup. He knows the Marlins’ charge for the postseason will not be easy, but he also knows what he and his teammates are capable of. If there is one thing about Joey Wendle, he will work tirelessly to turn the Marlins back into a winning ball club.
“This game is so much more fun and enjoyable when you’re winning baseball games,” Wendle said. “Ultimately, we need to be competing from day one. We need to come out with the mindset that we can win every single baseball game that we take the field on. If we win baseball games this year, then I’ll feel like I’ve done my job regardless of what my stats say.”