We know that Tommy Joseph has reinvented himself. We know that he can no longer catch, because of a number of concussions that have made it physically dangerous for him to even consider going behind the plate again. We know that he was thought to have decent offensive potential when he was acquired from the Giants. And, we know that he was leading the International League in hitting with a .347 average when the Phillies purchased his contract on Friday.
What we don't know is how Tommy Joseph is going to react and adjust his new hitting style once pitchers start to figure him out a little. Success for a young player in the majors often depends on adjusting. Pitchers find out about the guy and learn where his holes are and then, it's up to the hitter to adjust to what they're doing to get him out. The same thing happens in the minors, but we didn't get a big opportunity to see just how pitchers will adjust to Joseph, and more importantly, how he'll readjust once they figure him out. There simply wasn't enough of a sample size in the minors this season to see what pitchers will do to adjust to Joseph and how he'll be able to adjust his approach at the plate.
Keep in mind that while Joseph first reached Triple-A in 2013, he hasn't really even played a full season's worth of games at the highest level of the minors. He's played just 93 games with Lehigh Valley and only really had a full season's worth of games at Double-A, having played in 132 games at both Richmond and Reading combined. Joseph came into the season as a .197 hitter at Triple-A. Much of the time that he spent with Lehigh Valley, he was on the DL or just coming off of the DL and he's never had an expanded playing opportunity. In fact, to start a season, this is the longest stretch - 27 games - that he's gone without winding up on the DL for the IronPigs.
It's unrealistic to expect that Tommy Joseph, who in his minor league career has hit .250 overall is going to come in and be a huge offensive success. That's not to say that it can't happen. The game is full of players who burst onto the scene after suddenly putting things together in the minors. There are plenty of players who never even played at the Triple-A level and have gone on to have great careers. Those are the exceptions though, not the rule. You have to expect that even if Joseph does get off to a hot start, with scouting in the majors being what it is, pitchers will catch up to him at some point and he's going to go into a slump.
Truth is, there's nothing wrong with that. IronPigs manager Dave Brundage is quick to point out with young players, even of the prospect caliber of Maikel Franco, that adversity in the minors is gives a true picture of what a player is all about. It can be very telling to see how a player handles struggles, at any level, although most prefer that the deepest levels of adversity come in the minors. The good news is that Joseph has faced a different kind of adversity; injuries. It's not an overstatement to say that his career was near over. Every concussion drove him closer and closer to being a former player and every time, he battled back. Even when he was told he couldn't catch anymore, there was no sulking. Instead, he just adjusted.
Joseph has worked hard to learn how to play first base, including working to slim down to make himself more athletic. He's taken countless groundballs at first and worked with everyone in the organization who knows anything about the position. He's worked hard on his offense and coming back from injuries.
Because of the concussions, the ball sometimes looked like a fluttering, flashing orb coming toward him when he was at the plate. Thankfully, a special contact lens that Joseph wears has helped eliminate that problem, giving him a fighting chance at seeing the ball on its way toward the plate.
There is no reason to believe that Joseph won't be able to succeed at the major league level. We just need to keep our expectations realistic. Will he be hitting .347 when he's 27 games into his career in the majors? Not likely. Will he have six home runs in his first 100 plate appearances like he had at Lehigh Valley this season? Not likely.
Truth is, there's a lot that we don't know about Tommy Joseph. Maybe the biggest thing that we do know is that he's going to do whatever it takes to succeed at the major league level. There will be rough spots and odds are that Joseph will battle them with the same never-say-die attitude that he used to save his career when many thought it was over. If nothing else, someone who has paid the dues that Joseph has paid, at least deserves a shot at showing what he can do in the majors. And if it doesn't work for him this time around, don't count him out. He may just need to do a little more reinventing and regrouping and come back later. After all, he's done it before, so there's no reason why he wouldn't be able to do it again.
Tommy Joseph career stats vs pitchers ranked among the Top 20 Prospects in baseball
Tommy Joseph career minor league stats (overall)
|Minors (7 seasons)||Minors||500||1869||211||476||107||4||69||292||.255||.306||.427|