Who knew that when the Orioles took Matt Wieters and Caleb Joseph in the first seven rounds of the 2008 MLB draft that they would be getting two of the better catchers available in that pool of players?
Clearly, Wieters, now starring for the big league club is a sure-fire star, but had Joseph been the only backstop taken, no doubt the club would be touting the 23-year-old as the organization's catcher of the future. He's that good.
And better yet, should Wieters eventually outgrow the catcher position, as some fear, Joseph could stand in to give the Orioles an in-house replacement.
Joseph came to the Orioles via Lipscomb University, where he helped lead the team to their first ever NCAA regional berth.
He hit .342 that year, a career high, besting the .335 he notched as a sophomore. He also paced the team with 17 home runs and 61 RBI as a junior, earning Atlantic Sun Conference MVP honors.
He was an A-Sun All-Conference selection both his sophomore and junior years, and cemented his status as a legitimate catching prospect when he was named a fill-in for the Cape Cod League Cotuit squad, managed by Orioles' second baseman Brian Roberts' father Mike. Joseph excelled in the wooden bat league, even earning a trip to the CCBL All-Star game.
Although Joseph played several positions during his high school and college days, including second base, shortstop and outfield, the Orioles saw enough defensive ability in him to make him their 7th round pick as a catcher.
Some called the move strange, considering that the O's had tabbed their franchise cornerstone catcher with the 5th overall pick, but the Orioles knew it was better to have Joseph in their system, rather than playing against them.
As if Joseph hadn't proven enough in his three-year stint at Lipscomb, he set about to show the O's they had gotten two franchise catchers in their 2008 haul.
He went straight to work at short-season Aberdeen, where his 19 doubles led the Ironbirds. His eight home runs finished tied for second on the team, and his 34 RBI placed second to Tyler Kolodny's 38.
Joseph began the 2009 season with no real expectations. Wieters was on the verge of making the big league squad, and the Orioles were intent on giving young Caleb all the time in the world.
Turns out he didn't need that long. Joseph got hot right out of the gate in '09, and was arguably Frederick's best player under the age of 24 (the "over 24" honor went to Brandon Waring).
Joseph finished second on the team with 12 home runs and finished fourth in RBI on a team that featured five players with 59 or more runs batted in.
In the lineup, Joseph batted anywhere from second to seventh, depending on where the Keys needed him. Wherever he hit, he was almost always a fixture behind the plate for the High A squad, solidifying his status as a future catcher.
The pros (excellent power, ability to hit for a decent average, athletic, moves well as a catcher, has great hands) on Joseph totally outweigh the cons (his inability to handle good breaking pitches and inexperience).
Obviously, as he plays more and more, he'll knock that inexperience one out of the park, and with his intelligence (players and coaches claim he spends more time in the clubhouse than anyone else) he should be able to get a hang of those breaking balls too.
Joseph has played his way to Double A in only a season and a half, just a hair behind the pace that Matt Wieters set. He should be Bowie's starting catcher, and with no other real catching prospect in the system, and could easily have AAA Norfolk within his reach in 2010.
Finally, the one trait that should help Joseph the most is the one that almost anyone you ask about him is sure to bring up first. Joseph is a tremendous individual.
He spends tons of time helping out the community, and makes regular mission trips during the offseason, many of those to Latin America, where he honed his Spanish speaking skills, yet another way he has been able to improve his game, making him a better battery-mate for a number of his team's Spanish speaking pitchers.