Last July, with the Philadelphia Phillies falling out of contention, they knew that they would have to make some roster changes to help them build for the future. Trading Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino came as no surprise for a struggling team. Changes had to happen, and youth had to be brought in to replenish a weakening farm system.
In the Pence trade, the Phillies acquired Tommy Joseph, who is now the catcher of the future. Nobody would have expected the 21-year-old to make the roster out of camp this spring, but he did have an impressive showing both at the plate and behind it. On Saturday, the Phillies announced that Joseph had been sent to minor-league camp, but his experience with the big boys was worthwhile.
Joseph has racked up a career .427 slugging percentage in the Minors, and hit .250/.327/.420 after joining the Phillies in AA. The Phillies like his power from the right side, but as with any catcher, the most important thing is an ability to handle a pitching staff. Joseph had a chance to work with Phillies regulars this spring, including Roy Halladay. That experience is invaluable as Joseph now returns to the Minor Leagues.
The big question now is where Joseph will end up once the season begins. He finished last year at AAA, but a AAA promotion could be in order. That said, not a whole lot of 21-year-olds make it to AAA at the snap of a finger.
Eventually, the Phillies have to hope Joseph can take the reins as an everyday man. Carlos Ruiz just turned 34, and is no spring chicken. Losing Travis d’Arnaud through trade certainly hurt the Phillies in terms of catching prospects, but they did get Halladay in that deal, so there can’t be too much crying.
That said, it was evident the Phillies needed some catching help in the Minors, and Joseph has been anointed as that man. With Sebastian Valle coming through the organization as well, it’s possible that the Phillies could fill their catching spots just with guys to come through the system.
For now, Joseph returns to the Minors to hone his skills, but his time in camp this spring showed that he will be back some day.