I see a lot of Texas League games at ONEOK Field home of the Tulsa Drillers, the Double-A affiliate of the Dodgers. Before he was promoted to AAA one guy that consistently impressed me was Connor Joe, the former 2nd round pick of the Pirates who is now with the Dodgers. Joe was the 39th overall pick that year after a notable career at the University of San Diego. He was then traded to the Braves in the Sean Rodriguez trade, and the traded again this off season to the Dodgers for international bonus pool space.
One of Joe’s attributes is versatility, playing mostly third base, but also seeing time at first, second and right field. I’ve seen him competently handle third and second, and he could cover first as necessary.
Aside from his versatility, most impressive is the transformation of Joe’s offensive production. Joe showed a great eye, above average bat speed and the ability to manipulate the barrel to achieve consistent hard contact. Every night it seemed he hit line drives to all fields, all the time. The guy was a machine and I actually enjoyed his hitting so much that I was sad to see him go to AAA.
See if you can tell below how the eye test manifests statistically for Connor Joe this year. Hint, I highlighted the sexy numbers.
Joe’s ISO in 2018 has skyrocketed, to .250 in AA and .241 in AAA. His wRC+ was an impressive 165 in AA and a very respectable 129 in AAA. Basically, the dude has raked matching his home run total for the previous season IN TWO MONTHS.
This offensive production is new for Joe. Just a season ago his ISO was .140 and his wRC+ was 98 at AA for the Pirates. And his track record for that was just as mediocre, if not worse.
Why has Connor Joe turned into an offensive force?
Six words: HIT THE BALL IN THE AIR. Joe has changed his approach and bat path to put the ball in play. Check out his GB% decrease, down to just over 35% in 2018.
And the results are most obvious in his HR/FB ratio, which went from 7.2% in 2017 to more than double that in 2018.
Connor Joe gave credit in an interview with the Tulsa World to Phil Plantier for his improved offensive production,
I spent a lot of time talking with him, watching video with him, spent time learning from him, working on my swing to clean it up and to get my swing to come out freer and be more athletic in the box. I spent a lot of hours in his (batting) cage, and it developed into this.
Here is Joe lacing a line drive double up the right field line.
Personally, I hope Wily Peralta or Jason Hammel can go on a tear and the Royals trade both to the Dodgers, or maybe the Dodgers have a renewed need for some of the Royals international bonus pool, or a combination thereof, even if the only return is Connor Joe. Because a third baseman that walks 10% of the time, has a .250 ISO, slashing .301/.404/.548, with 16 homers, 50 walks in only 312 at-bats, is straight sexy cool.
Photo Credit – IAN MAULE, Tulsa World