Why Philadelphia Phillies Fans Should Look Forward to Tommy Joseph
The Philadelphia Phillies went over a year without having a position player above the Single-A level rank as one of their top prospects.
After sending Jonathan Singleton to the Houston Astros as part of the deal for Hunter Pence, the Phils’ farm system became even more dominated by pitching prospects.
So it’s only fitting that Pence was again part of a deal involving a top position-player prospect for the Phillies.
The Phillies’ haul for Pence at this year’s trade deadline did not match the one they sent to the Astros last year. However, at least one player involved in their deal this year with the San Francisco Giants has a chance to excite fans as he progresses through the team’s system.
Tommy Joseph not only adds depth to the catcher position in the Phillies’ minor league system, but he also becomes the team’s top position-player prospect following his acquisition from the Giants.
Although the Phils’ return for Pence makes their trade package last season look even more generous, Joseph’s acquisition can have an impact at both the minor and major league level.
Here are five reasons why Phillies fans should look forward to Joseph.
Top Position-Player Prospect
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Prior to Joseph’s acquisition, the Phillies’ top ranked position-player prospect, according to mlb.com, was Larry Greene, Jr.
Greene has only played 47 games as a professional.
Catcher Sebastian Valle is the only non-pitcher who is younger than 25 years old and playing above the High-A level who also ranked in the top 10 among Phillies prospects.
Joseph, however, now takes over as the Phils’ top position-player prospect after beginning the season ranked by Baseball America as the Giants No. 2 overall prospect.
The Phillies just went over a year without having a position player above High-A ball rank among their best prospects, while both the Toronto Blue Jays’ and Houston Astros’ top two prospects, according to mlb.com, are former Phillies’ minor leaguers.
Joseph’s acquisition now gives the Phils a position player who could see big league action at some point in the next two seasons, which would be crucial for a team looking to get younger while monitoring spending.
And with Joseph and his 46 home runs during his first two and a half seasons in the minor leagues on board, not having to spend big on at least one free agent to add power to the lineup will be a huge advantage in future seasons.
Possible Successor to Carlos Ruiz
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In a season in which injuries and poor play have forced the Phillies to spend the majority of time in last place in the National League East, Carlos Ruiz has been a major bright spot.
In 95 games this season, Ruiz is batting .335 with 14 home runs and 58 RBI. His home run and RBI totals have already eclipsed his previous career highs.
Chooch, however, is also 33 years old and plays arguably the most demanding position on the field. He’s currently on the disabled list with plantar fasciitis, and also has a $5 million option for next season.
But what happens after that?
Ruiz will be 35 years old by the time an extension would kick in following next season and first base is seemingly out of the question for a position change.
This brings up the question, what kind of contract would the Phils offer a 34, soon-to-be 35-year-old catcher?
If the Phillies do not re-sign Ruiz to a long-term contract, their acquisition of Joseph could have just brought them their successor at catcher.
Through 55 games at catcher this season Joseph has made just three errors, which would be his lowest total at the position in his minor league career.
An article by Daniel Carp on philly.com recently pointed out that in the five games that Joseph has caught at Double-A since being acquired, the team is 4-1 with an ERA of 2.14, while the team’s bullpen has a 0.66 ERA.
Ruiz’s presence both at the plate and behind it will be difficult to replace, but the Phillies might have just acquired a player for the task in Joseph.
Depth at Catcher in the Minor Leagues
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The Phillies’ depth at certain positions in the minor leagues in past seasons has allowed them to make big splashes at the trade deadline and in the offseason.
But enough trades can cause that depth to vanish quickly.
Although they have an abundance of pitchers, the Phillies lacked depth at other positions in the field going into the trade deadline.
Now with Joseph in the fold, the Phils at least have some depth at another position besides pitcher.
Between Joseph and Valle, the Phillies have two catchers ranked in the top 10 in their minor league system according to mlb.com.
One of these players will likely be held onto regardless of trade proposals so as to have a player ready to step in for Ruiz.
The other highly ranked prospect could be part of a trade package to acquire players for third base, left field, center field or even the bullpen.
Trading any prospects at this season’s trade deadline would have caused the Phillies’ farm system to lose depth for the fifth consecutive season.
Instead, fans can look forward to Joseph’s emergence so that the Phils can then potentially include Valle, or a different catching prospect, in a deal for major league contributors.
Power Early in the Lineup
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In his first two seasons in the minor leagues, Joseph hit a combined 38 home runs before he turned 21 years old.
His 22 home runs last season ranked sixth in the California League.
But what makes Joseph’s power even more intriguing is the spot in the lineup from which he could one day be hitting home runs for the Phils.
In an article by Marc Narducci on philly.com, a scout was quoted as describing Joseph as a “three-hole hitter.”
The Phillies currently have Chase Utley to bat in the three-hole, and he is signed through next season.
However, Joseph’s potential as a power hitting catcher who is able to bat from the three-spot could allow him to be a huge addition in future seasons.
By the time he reaches the major league level, Joseph could fill needs at catcher and at the three-spot in the Phils lineup, while also adding to power numbers that have been decreasing in recent seasons.
If Joseph can contribute in even two out of these three areas, his addition will have plenty of value for the Phillies.
Potential at First Base
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Joseph has the potential to become a major league contributor at two different positions.
He could remain at catcher and become a rare power hitter at the position. Or, as Marc Narducci’s article points out, Joseph also plays first base.
In 41 games at first base, Joseph has made five career errors.
Joseph will likely be ready for the major leagues before Ryan Howard’s contract expires, meaning that catching could be what puts him in a Phillies’ uniform the fastest.
However, Joseph will at least provide the Phils with an option at first base should another young catching prospect be ready for the major leagues.
Either way, Joseph’s versatility could help him reach the big leagues, and give fans a reason to look forward to his progression.