The Philadelphia Phillies have promoted one of their young prospects in time for the opening of a weekend series against the Cincinnati Reds.
Just hours before the July 31st trade deadline back in 2012, the struggling Phillies had come to the realization that they were not going to continue a glorious run of five consecutive NL East crowns, and the team dealt away outfielder Hunter Pence to the San Francisco Giants for a three-player package.
Pence would go on to become a key player for the Giants in winning a pair of World Series crowns that season and again in 2014. The package that the Phils received in return, on the other hand, was a major disappointment.
That package included veteran outfielder Nate Schierholtz, who would finish out the season in Philly and then leave for a free agent deal with the Chicago Cubs in the off-season. It also included right-handed pitcher Seth Rosin, who would be shelled for five runs on seven hits over just two innings in his only Phillies appearance last season.
The third player in that deal was seen as the real key from the Phillies perspective. That player was a 20-year old catcher by the name of Tommy Joseph. The Giants’ 2nd round choice in the 2009 MLB Amateur Draft out of high school in Arizona, Joseph banged 38 homers and drove in 163 runs over his first two minor league seasons.
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But the Giants had 25-year old Buster Posey at catcher in the midst of what would be an NL MVP season. They saw Pence as a missing piece to their championship puzzle as they tried to hold off the rival Los Angeles Dodgers, who had just obtained Shane Victorino in a deal with the Phillies.
The deal was made, Pence helped the Giants to the title, and Joseph moved to AA Reading, where he hit for a .250/.327/.420 slash line with three homers and 10 RBI over his final 114 plate appearances of the 2012 minor league season.
Joseph would then begin to break down due to injuries, most especially a series of concussions that would ultimately cause the Phillies to remove him permanently from behind the plate. A catcher by trade and by heart, Joseph did not like the move to 1st base. But it was his only chance at reaching his goal of a big league career.
To his credit, Joseph bore down and responded. After the Phils had removed him from the 40-man roster this off-season, they invited him to spring training. Joseph came in and tore the cover off the ball, suddenly re-establishing himself as a prospect.
That hot hitting continued into the AAA season at Lehigh Valley, where he was hitting to a .347/.370/.611 slash line with six homers and 17 RBI over his first 100 plate appearances.
Meanwhile in Philadelphia, the Phillies were off to a surprising start that has left the team with a 20-15 record after almost six full weeks of the season. The club will now play 19 of their next 25 games at home, and thanks in part to his hot start, Joseph will be a part of that homestand. The Phillies have promoted him in time for tonight’s weekend opener against the Cincinnati Reds.
Another key part to the Joseph promotion has been the continued disappointment from Darin Ruf. After another strikeout in a key spot last night, Ruf is hitting for just a .158/.206/.193 slash line with no homers and just three RBI. He has also struck out 19 times in 63 plate appearances.
Joseph will simply slot into the Ruf role, starting at 1st base against lefty pitchers, and pinch-hitting against lefty relievers when he doesn’t get the start. That is likely to remain the case as long as Ryan Howard remains in Phillies pinstripes, which is likely no more than another two months.
It’s good to see one of the young players that we’ve all been hearing about in the minor leagues receive his chance. Joseph is the first, but certainly not the last, and not nearly the most talented, of a parade of young bats and arms that Phillies fans can expect to see arrive in South Philly over the next few months.