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Tommy Joseph sat near the top of every publication’s Phillies prospect rankings about nine months ago. He was the chief return in the Hunter Pence trade and was beginning Triple-A at the tender age of 21. While not an explosive, exciting prospect, Joseph had an interesting blend of tools and warts that made him intriguing and potentially useful as a big leaguer. Then everything went straight to hell.
Joseph struggled at Triple-A as he began to adjust to more mature pitching. It wasn’t anything to be alarmed about, Joseph experienced difficulty the year before when he first got a glimpse of Double-A pitching. He’d just need time, likely all of 2013 and some of next season, before he conquered Triple-A and was ready for a look in the Majors, where he’d also almost certainly scuffle at first. He never got the chance.
A foul ball taken flush off his mask ignited (well, re-ignited, he has a history) concussion symptoms that never went away and Joseph’s 2013 season was completely lost. He’ll likely start next year back in Double-A, which totally jumbles his time table. Even so, the tools to be a big-leaguer are ever present. Chiefly, Joseph produces 65 grade raw power with massive strength and torque generated in a swing that features lovely balance through it finish and great leverage. It’s unlikely that raw pop will actualize at the big league level, however, as Joseph simply doesn’t make enough contact. He doesn’t track consistently and the bat path is not conducive of contact. Those issues are exacerbated by a poor approach. He’s a 35 hitter for me right now with a 40 ceiling. With his approach, that offensive profile is interesting but not altogether arousing. I think we’re looking at a .240/.310/.450 line with maybe some more power at his peak.
That wouldn’t be all that attractive if Joseph couldn’t catch. Many thought he wouldn’t be able to at the onset of his career, citing a bad body and slow feet that would only get worse as he aged and render him to immobile to carry out many catching duties. Joseph’s makeup is universally praised and it’s now hard to find a scout who thinks he’s not passable defensively behind the plate. His receiving is fine and he has terrific raw arm strength though it’s hampered by the amount of time it takes Joseph to rise from his crouch and fire to second. The main issue here is the struggles Joseph has with blocking balls in the dirt. Slow of foot, Joseph often doesn’t get down in time to use his thighs and pads to block balls and they end up rolling to the backstop behind him. The defense overall is passable.
If, due to the aforementioned concussions, Joseph has to move out from behind the plate and over to first base then his bat doesn’t profile as any sort of regular. This presents an interesting predicament for Joseph and the Phillies. His best shot to make it is via the squat, but the long term health of Joseph’s brain is, you know, important to his personhood and life and such. Even if Joseph pushes the organization to allow him to continue to don the mask, should they let him? He has an average regular’s ceiling but it’ going to take time for him to get there. If he even catches for that long. Here’s hoping everything works out for the young man.