Phillies remain high on catching prospect obtained for Pence

Tommy Joseph , acquired in the Hunter Pence deal, has played some first base, but his future is behind the plate. YONG KIM /Staff Photographer
Tommy Joseph , acquired in the Hunter Pence deal, has played some first base, but his future is behind the plate. YONG KIM /Staff Photographer
Posted: September 03, 2012

READING, Pa. - When catcher Tommy Joseph was acquired by the Phillies from the San Francisco Giants in the Hunter Pence deal on July 31, his reputation was that of a strong offensive player whose defense needed refinement.

Yet during his brief time at double-A Reading, Joseph has opened eyes with his defense while struggling at the plate.

Either way, the Phillies are high on Joseph, who turned 21 in July and was rated at the beginning of the year as the Giants' No. 2 prospect by Baseball America.

"He is a worker, and he wants to be a better defensive catcher and hitter," said Joe Jordan, Phillies director of player development. "His reputation is that he swings the bat, and our impression of Tommy is he wants to be as good a defensive catcher, and we have really liked the pride and work ethic he has shown."

The 6-foot-1, 215-pound Joseph has played the entire season at double A, beginning with the Giants' Richmond Flying Squirrels team. For the season, he entered the weekend hitting .254 with 10 home runs and 54 RBIs, including .235 with two home runs and eight RBIs in his first 24 games with Reading.

"Hitting has been a struggle," Joseph said. "I put a lot of time and effort into learning the pitching staff, and obviously that is no excuse for my hitting, but that is my first priority."

Joseph has the sort of take-charge personality to be a catcher, and he has impressed the Reading staff with the way he handles a game.

"One of the things I noticed right away is the type of receiver he is and how solidly he catches the ball and how well he holds it where it is," Reading righthander Trevor May said. "He's one of the best to throw to in that respect."

In the minors the Phillies catchers call the game, not the coaches.

"Another big thing that has impressed me is that he is wise beyond his years [on] how to pitch certain guys and what he sees from hitters," May said.

Reading manager Dusty Wathan, a former minor-league catcher, said Joseph has what it takes to succeed offensively and defensively.

"He's done a tremendous job behind the plate handling the pitching staff," Wathan said. "Offensively, we didn't want to throw a lot of things at him right away, but we are scraping the surface in some of the adjustments that can help him."

Wathan projects Joseph to be a catcher who will hit with power.

"He's going to have legitimate power especially from the catching position," Wathan said. "The power is in there, and we will see it eventually."

Joseph will get to work on his craft in the Arizona Fall League, and he will be playing for the Peoria Javelinas. Wathan will be the manager.

A second-round draft choice by the Giants (No. 55 overall) out of Horizon High in Scottsdale, Ariz., Joseph said he will be playing this fall about 20 minutes from home.

"I get to stay at home and get home-cooked meals and see friends and family every day," said Joseph, who took a foul tip off his foot and missed games Wednesday and Thursday. "I think it will be a blast."

One of the strengths of the Phillies system is catcher, with Joseph, Sebastian Valle at triple-A Lehigh Valley, and Cameron Rupp, who was an all-star for advanced single-A Clearwater.

It is way too early for the Phillies to say what they will do next year with Valle and Joseph, but it's doubtful both will be on the same team since each needs to play every day.

"The reality is that this is a competitive game, and the best man is going to win," Jordan said. "I love it and think both these players have the ability to be good major-league players and it's going to come down to who finishes off their game defensively and offensively."

Contact Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225, or on Twitter @sjnard.

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