Tommy Joseph of the Philadelphia Phillies has been one of the surprise rookies of 2016. Through 103 games he's hit .259/.311/.511 with 21 homers, 22 walks and 74 strikeouts in 309 at-bats, including .400 with two homers in his last 10 games. What can we expect from Joseph going forward?
We first wrote him up back on May 14th when he was first promoted. Here's what I wrote at the time, followed by my current thinking:
Joseph was originally drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the second round in 2009 from high school in Scottsdale, Arizona. He emerged as a power-hitting catcher, batting .236/.290/.401 with 16 homers in Low-A in 2010 then .270/.317/.471 with 22 homers in High-A in 2011. In July 2012 he was one of the key prospects in the trade that sent Hunter Pence west to the Bay Area from Philadelphia.
And then the bad times started for Joseph.
His 2013 season was ruined by a severe concussion that limited him to 36 games. His 2014 season was ruined by another significant concussion, plus a wrist injury, limiting him to 27 games. He suffered another serious concussion in May of 2015, at which point the Phillies pulled the plug on Joseph as a catcher and moved him to first base. His hitting suffered amidst all the injuries and position switching and he hit just .193/.220/.301 last year in Triple-A.
Joseph entered 2016 needing to rebuild his career. Finally healthy and freed from the rigors of catching, his bat came to life this spring in Triple-A, with a .347/.370/.611 line with six homers. It is a small sample, of course, just 27 games and 95 at-bats, but it is certainly good to see given his struggles in recent years.
His swing mechanics were reputedly a mess last year but are said to look much better now; he also appears to be in better physical condition in general. Joseph has legitimate strength and power in his bat, but his minor league track record shows consistently weak BB/K/PA ratios, which match reports of an aggressive hitting approach. He may never be much of an OBP threat but he is dangerous if you make a mistake, particularly against left-handed pitching. He is still learning the nuances of first base defense but should be decent there in time.
Overall, Joseph projects as a solid role player with power the main draw. Injuries ruined his chance to be a regular catcher but he should still have a career.
So far that holds up, particularly his ability to crush left-handed pitching; he's hitting .281/.350/.562 against lefties.He has proven to be an aggressive hitter but so far it hasn't hurt him much and his progress overall has been impressive given the amount of rust he's had to work off.
As for the future, I think what we see is what we get for the next year or two. In his late 20s I could see him taking another step forward, something along Mark Trumbo lines if Joseph maxes out.
What do you think of that comp?