Last season the buzz around the Philadelphia Phillies was that Carlos Ruiz‘s successor had been found his name was Tommy Joseph.
Joseph, acquired from the San Francisco Giants last season, was the centerpiece in the trade that sent Hunter Pence to the eventual World Series winners. When he joined the Phillies, Joseph was described as a good kid with character and wisdom beyond his years. At just 20 years old at the time of the trade, Joseph every bit played the part of the veteran while still learning the position he picked up in just his senior year of high school.
Joining the Reading Phillies, Joseph quickly showed why he was ranked seventh on MLB.com’s list of top-10 catching prospects. He hit just .250 with 11 XBH, 12 runs and 10 RBI. His combined stats from both the Reading Phillies and his Double-A team in San Francisco were good enough to get Joseph into the Futures Game, the biggest honor for a young player.
Joseph’s success at Reading had him move up the charts in terms of the Phillies’ top prospects. By the end of the year, MLB.com had him listed as the third best Philadelphia prospect and the Philadelphia Inquirer’s scouts had him listed as the organization’s sixth best. Ultimately, Joseph ascended over Sebastian Valle, and as Valle was demoted back to Double-A, Joseph got his chance with Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
And as much as the Phillies would have loved to report a success story or any sort of story at all with Joseph, that has not been the case. The top catching prospect in the organization has struggled since his promotion, but it has been more due to injuries than his stats. Joseph has played in just 21 games with Lehigh Valley and is hitting just .209 in that time. He does have three home runs, however, which is a promising sign.
The biggest question mark with Joseph was his ability to develop behind the plate, and he had been improving on that. But catchers are subjected to rough conditions, and Joseph landing on the DL so many times in such a short period leaves one to wonder if he has the durability to play this position full-time behind the plate.
His bat shouldn’t cause too much concern, but it is the backstop duties that are now in question. Joseph may still be a top prospect in terms of offensive ceiling and potential, but at this point the Phillies might be wise to find him a new position to play.