Scouting Phils Prospect #8: Tommy Joseph

Tommy Joseph put up an impressive showing in Phillies camp this spring, but was always destined to start the year in the minors. With a glut of catching, it's tough to anoint anyone as the Phillies catcher of the future, but Joseph is the closest you get to the title.

Tommy Joseph

Position: Catcher
Bats/Throws: Right / Right
Birthday/Age: July 16, 1991 (21)
Ht/Wt: 6' 1", 215 pounds

How he became a Phillie: Acquired from the San Francisco Giants along with P Seth Rosin and OF Nate Schierholtz in exchange for OF Hunter Pence on July 31, 2012. Ironically, Joseph was playing with Double-A Richmond, who were hosting the Double-A Reading Phillies (Now, the Reading Fightins), meaning Joseph was able to literally carry his equipment to the visitor's clubhouse at Richmond's "The Diamond" ballpark.

Tommy Joseph's league comparison

STAT

EASTERN LEAGUE AVERAGES

JOSEPH'S AVERAGES

AVG .260 .257
OBP .330 .317
SLG .392 .399
PA/HR 51.1 40.8
PA/RBI 9.5 9.3
PA/R 8.7 10.2
K/BB 2.2 2.8
PA/GIDP 46.8 34.5

Defense: Joseph played both catcher and first base in high school, but was primarily behind the plate for his senior season and was drafted by the San Francisco Giants as a catcher in the second round of the 2009 Draft. The Giants did use him a little at first base, primarily because he was blocked by Buster Posey at the big league level; the Phillies would have the opposite problem, with Ryan Howard entrenched at first base and even if he were to disappear, Darin Ruf would be the Phillies first thought at first.

Joseph initially wasn't great defensively behind the plate, another part of the reason why the Giants kept first base in the back of their minds. Over time though, Joseph has put in the work needed to get better and has shown a lot of improvement defensively to the point where he is now considered at least average defensively. The plus part of his defense is a strong, accurate arm which he has complimented by improving his footwork and throwing mechanics. Last season, splitting his time between Richmond and Reading, Joseph threw out 40% of runners attempting to steal against him and has a minor league career average of 37% since making his professional debut in the South Atlantic League in 2010. The downside is blocking pitches in the dirt, which is an art that Joseph continues to work on.

While it's not completely out of the question that the Phillies would consider moving Joseph out from behind the plate, it's likely that he'll continue to serve as a catcher. If they do move him, it would be more because they've got such a glut of catchers in the system than it would be because of his defense.

Scouting Report: The best part of Joseph's game right now is his power potential. He's hit 49 home runs in three professional seasons and has the potential to hit home runs at an even higher pace than he has shown so far. Over those three seasons, he's hit .256 at the plate and the Phillies would like to see him make a little more contact, even if it's at the cost of reducing his home run output by a little. Joseph's plate discipline is getting better and he has the basic tools that he'll need to boost his average and on-base percentage without sacrificing too much of the power that he can harness in his swing.

Ceiling: All signs point to Joseph being a high-caliber major league catcher. He is still just 21-years old and there is more to work on in his game, but he's not afraid of putting in the time and energy to improve and the tools are all there. Will he be a perennial all-star? Not likely, but he should be able to be in the all-star discussions once he settles in and it's likely that he'll find himself on an all-star roster a time or two throughout his career. 

ETA: With Carlos Ruiz in the final year of his contract, Joseph's timing is impeccable. He's in a spot where he with a good season, he could see himself as a strong candidate for the starting job in Philadelphia for the 2014 season. It will be interesting to see how the Phillies handle Joseph in 2013 and how he responds. It's likely that he'll head to Triple-A Lehigh Valley, but fellow catcher Sebastian Valle is also in line to open the year with the IronPigs. Will the Phillies keep both at Triple-A and have them split time or will they send one of them - most likely Valle - to Reading and have both playing full-time? Joseph is ahead of Valle on the depth chart and it's likely that they'll give him the preferential treatment - especially based on his spring performance with the big league club - and have him playing everyday at Lehigh Valley.

It will also be interesting to see if the Phillies would bring Joseph up during the season if they need another catcher due to an injury. He's almost a lock for a September audition, but it's not out of the question that he could see time in the majors if they need help behind the plate and if Joseph is having a good season. While he's not quite ready for the majors now, a fill-in audition later in the season certainly isn't out of the question and Joseph figures to be ready to join the major league team full-time in 2014.

Tommy Joseph's career stats

YearTeamGABRH2B3BHRRBIBBSOBAOBPSLG
2010Augusta (A)11743646103221166826116.236.290.401
2011San Jose (A+)12751480139332229529102.270.317.471
2012Richmond8030432791608382564.260.313.391
2012Reading28100122580310932.250.327.420
2012combined stats1084044410424011483496.257.317.399
3 Seasons35213541703467934921189314.256.308.427
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/11/2013.



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