Philadelphia Phillies' Next Starting Catcher Has Arrived

By Sean O'Brien
Philadelphia Phillies Tommy Joseph
H. Darr Beiser – USA TODAY Sports

Tommy Joseph reminds me of Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels, Carlos Ruiz and other players of that type. As soon as I saw each of those then-young men in the minor leagues, or when they played their first major league game, I knew that I was watching a future Philadelphia Phillies‘ regular.

Joseph, who was obtained from the San Francisco Giants in the Hunter Pence trade last summer, looks like the next Phillies’ starting catcher. The 21-year-old is stocky, sound defensively, carries a good bat, has a sharp pedigree and most importantly, has the look of a major leaguer in his eyes. That last point involves the undefinable element known as an “intangible.”

Rollins had the “J-Roll” swag working long before the Phillies were playoff contenders. He and Larry Bowa saw what the future could be in the early 2000s. The fans recognized the potential that someone of his caliber carried with him into Veterans Stadium.

Of course, Utley hit a grand slam in his first big league at bat.

Howard made a brief appearance in 2004 and then won the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 2005.

Hamels is a pitcher, but still rates as a comparison source because his mound presence belied his years during his mid-2000s arrival.

Then, there was “Chooch.” Ruiz was always a stud defensively, having developed his offensive force later in his career. That more recent plate production has come into question as a result of his coming 25-game ban for use of a banned stimulant.

Because Ruiz’ contract is only guaranteed through the end of this season, it’s possible that he will be removed from (or allowed to leave) the roster during this calendar year. If the Phillies stumble into the summer, the 34-year-old veteran could be a trade deadline candidate. If the team does make a playoff push, his personal efforts will be the determining factor regarding any contract extension.

Erik Kratz has almost certainly won the starting catcher’s role by default this spring. If Joseph exceeds expectations during the next month, don’t be surprised if he shares catching duties with Kratz in April. That reward would also allow an early preview of what might come to pass in the very near future.

As long as Joseph makes steady progress this year and remains healthy, I expect him to work his way into the Phillies’ lineup on a semi-regular basis. If Ruiz is re-signed, Joseph will become his backup, or platoon partner, by next season at the latest.

Follow Sean on Twitter @SeanyOB, Facebook, Google+ and read his blog Insight.

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