Staying Within Himself Has Been Key For Wendle

Finding consistency has been an issue with a number of players on the Double-A Akron RubberDucks team this season. For some, it was just small slumps where a hit seemed to be nowhere in sight. For others, it was just a matter of getting back-to-back games of putting the ball in play and getting on base. Joe Wendle was a big victim of that situation. As we near the end of the month of June though, it seems that consistency has finally found its way to Wendle’s bat. Wendle was named the Indians Minor League Player of the Week today.

Wendle was drafted by the Indians in the sixth round of the 2012 First Year Player Draft by the Indians. Prior to the draft he attended West Chester University of Pennsylvania. After he was drafted he spent 2012 with Short Season-A, Mahoning Valley and then 2013 with High-A Carolina. Within 168 games between the two teams, Wendle hit .311/.374/.491 with 47 doubles, 9 triples, 20 home runs, 101 RBI, and 14 stolen bases. His top notch play last season with Carolina earned him the 2013 Lou Bourdreau Award for being the top minor league position player in the Indians farm system. After being so successful so far in his career, Wendle had struggled early this season with Double-A Akron.

In the month of June, Wendle hit a disappointing .193/.297/.318 in 25 games played with 3 doubles, 1 triple, 2 home runs and only 6 RBI. Wendle has spent most of his season batting third behind leadoff man Tyler Naquin and Indians top prospect Francisco Lindor. With the two of them batting ahead of Wendle, his RBI count should have been much higher, but the lack of consistency at the plate kept his numbers down and his average stayed below the Mendoza line at the end of the month.

May was better for him as he added almost a hundred points to his batting average as he hit .277/.315/.462 in 28 games with 11 doubles, 1 triple, 3 home runs, and 20 RBI. As the season has progressed on, Wendle has had to adjust more to pitchers then he had towards the beginning of the season. Manager Dave Wallace credits his earlier struggles due to Wendle trying to do too much at the plate.

“Sometimes he gets a little to pull happy. He knows that,” Wallace said. “It’s really a matter of his pitch selection and the pitches he’s swinging at. If he has an approach of more up the middle then he’ll still pull balls, but he won’t pull off of them. So he’ll be able to drive them.”

His improved average though had been because he had shortened up his swing. When he’s not always trying to pull the ball he tends to get more success at the plate.

“He’s staying up the middle a little bit more,” says Wallace.

He continues to improve at the plate as the season goes on. Since the beginning of June, Wendle has hit .316/.354/.487 in 19 games with 3 doubles, 2 triples, 2 home runs, 16 RBI. Going into Sunday’s contest, Wendle is leading the RubberDucks with 42 RBI. This is quite an impressive accomplishment after having such a grisly start to the season. It seems that Wendle tends to get more locked in when there are players on the bases, compared to when there isn’t.

“I’m always trying to hit the ball hard, trying to have the same approach,” Wendle said. “Obviously when there’s a runner on third with less than two outs your approach changes a little bit. I just go up there every time and hit the ball hard. Try to have an opposite field approach and stay within myself.”

Over the last ten games, Wendle has been one of the hottest hitters on the RubberDucks team. In his last ten games, Wendle has hit .385/.419/.590. He’s really starting to get locked in at the plate, and it’s been so crucial for this team. With Naquin and Lindor hitting around the .250 mark over the last ten games, Wendle has taken it upon himself to step it up.

“He does a good job of keeping his focus, staying in the moment,” Wallace said. “He doesn’t give away too many at bats. He just has a knack when guys are on that he can drive them in. It’s a pretty good knack to have.”

For a good portion of the season, Wendle had issues of putting back-to-back games where he would record a hit. This isn’t something that really got inside of Wendles head though.

“Honestly, I feel like I’ve been having better at bats with more consistency in the past month and half,” Wendle said. “Some of the games where I won’t have any hits, I’ll hit the ball hard a couple of times. Some of the games where I do have hits it’ll be bloopers that will find holes. I wouldn’t attribute that to anything.”

Wallace credits his new found success at the plate due to his discipline at the plate.

“If he just stays within his zone and doesn’t chase, which is a lot easier said than done,” Wallace said. “He has such a good low maintenance short to the ball swing that if he puts the barrel on the ball then good things will happen.”

If Wendle continues to work on his approach at the plate, like he has been, then his consistency at the plate will continue to improve. One aspect of Wendle that has been solid all season long has been his defense at second base. With Tony Walters now the everyday starting catcher, Wendle plays second base on a daily basis. This helps contribute not only to his performance out on field, but finding everyday playing time can contribute to success at the plate as well.

Staying consistent and staying in the zone is key for Wendle. As the number three batter on the team, his bat is crucial to the success of the RubberDucks. If he stays within himself and doesn’t try to do too much, he’ll continue to improve as the season keeps moving forward.

Photo: Lianna Holub/DTTWLN photographer

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