OAKLAND—For second baseman Joey Wendle to become a major league player, he had to get better. He had to lift his game on defense, and he had to refine his strike-zone judgment.
Wendle spent 2016 making those improvements, and they could carry the 26-year-old to a full-time big league job.
“It’s been a lot of hard work on his part,” farm director Keith Lieppman said. “Once he gets something in his head that has to be done, once he gets a plan, he’s really good about executing the details.”
Wendle needed to improve his double-play pivot, better his first step to increase his range and become more consistent with his throws. So Triple-A Nashville manager Steve Scarsone and coach Eric Martins took him out almost every day for extended work.
He improved his fielding percentage from .977 in 2015 to .986 this season.
“This year I learned how to slow the game down, how to control my body a little bit better going to my left and to my right,” said Wendle, whom the Athletics acquired from the Indians for Brandon Moss following the 2014 season.
Wendle has such fine hand-eye coordination at the plate that he tended to ground out on pitches out of the strike zone, according to Lieppman. So he has worked hard to swing at pitches in the zone.
A 2012 sixth-round pick from West Chester (Pa.), Wendle received a September callup to Oakland and hit .260/.298/.302 in 28 games. He found himself batting leadoff frequently, and while the role was unfamiliar, the A’s could need it filled in 2017.
“I’ve enjoyed it,” he said. “It’s fun to hit at the top of the lineup and get on base to give the big guys a chance to drive me in.”
Wendle wants to find more ways to improve, so he joined Obregon in the Mexican Pacific League for the winter. He has played shortstop there to add to his versatility, which always is a valued trait in the organization.
• Outfielder Tyler Ramirez was named MVP at instructional league, which concluded in October. Outfielder Jeramiah McCray was named most improved player.