The Philadelphia Phillies fill-in catcher competition while Carlos Ruiz is suspended is really no competition at all. The job will belong to Eric Kratz, which should surprise no one, since the job has been his to lose since spring training.
The reason that this is becoming more and more of a discussion is because 21-year-old Tommy Joseph, who came to the Phillies in the Hunter Pence to the San Francisco Giants trade, has absolutely killed it when called upon in his six spring games (not including the game on 3-8). 13 AB |6 Hits |1 HR |3 R |2 RBI |.462 BA |.846 SLG| with 2 doubles. Whereas Eric Kratz has stunk out loud in his 6 games, but recovered his batting average a bit with a 2 hit game yesterday against the Minnesota Twins. 15 AB |3 H |1 HR |1 R |3 RBI |.200 BA |.400 SLG
Tommy Joseph is being discussed because of the disparity in performance between the two. Kratz has been bad enough to draw question marks, and Tommy Joseph has been good enough to raise eyebrows.
But this is such a small sample size that nothing has changed. Tommy Joseph is not going to bat .462 whether he makes the majors or not. If he bats .400 for the entirety of spring training, then there will be grounds for further debate. But he won’t. The most likely scenario is Joseph starts a handful of games in Ruiz’s absence, then is sent back to the minors for at least another season to marinate while the Phillies gauge Carlos Ruiz’s value, as Chooch is in the last year of his contract.
Tommy Joseph is the heir apparent to Carlos Ruiz, but the Phillies don’t want the 21 year old (22 in July) to sit on the bench backing him up while picking up pinch hits and starting once maybe twice a week. To get the starting job as quickly as possible Joseph has to keep hitting and play well enough between spring training, his stint as the backup catcher during the first 25 games, and his return to the minor leagues that the Phillies view Carlos Ruiz as trade bait come the trade deadline. But remember, if the Phillies and Chooch are playing well they will not move him until the season is over, even if Joseph is raking.
Joseph will make the major league team to start the season, and if he keeps batting at his current rate he could start more games than Eric Kratz during Ruiz’s 25 game suspension, but the starting job belongs to Carlos Ruiz. That will not change, barring an injury or an absolutely abominable season from Carlos Ruiz. However, I don’t think Carlos Ruiz is coming back next season, which means that next year the job will be Joseph’s for the taking.