Tommy Joseph leads Phillies' deep stable of catching prospects

Tommy Joseph batted .200 and had six passed balls in his first five games this season.
Tommy Joseph batted .200 and had six passed balls in his first five games this season. (MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer)
Posted: April 15, 2013

Despite a slow start, Lehigh Valley's Tommy Joseph still heads up an impressive list of catching prospects in the Phillies organization.

Joseph, who turns 22 in July, batted .200 in his first five games. But more troubling was that he had six passed balls in that span.

"He has been trying to do too much too early and just has to settle in and play," said Joe Jordan, the Phillies' director of player development. "He caught so well in camp and drew a lot of praise from minor-league pitchers and staff."

All of a sudden, the Phillies are deep in catchers. Joseph is the Phillies' No. 2-ranked prospect by The Inquirer. Reading's Sebastian Valle is No. 11. Cameron Rupp, also at Reading, is No. 24.

Valle and Rupp will be sharing time at catcher, but both will get in the lineup. When there is no designated hitter, Valle could play left field. And when there is a DH, either Valle or Rupp could catch.

The Phillies consider all three major-league prospects, and the 24-year-old Rupp might be the best defensive catcher of the three.

"He has been a pleasant surprise, and I am surprised by his arm. It's a lot better than I ever remember seeing it," said Reading manager Dusty Wathan, a former longtime minor-league catcher. "His all-around defensive game is great."

After hitting .261 at Reading and .218 in 22 games at Lehigh Valley, the perception is that Valle, who turns 23 in July, has slipped.

"I really think it's the progress made by the other two guys that has as much to do with it as anything," Jordan said. "Right now all three are catching, and somebody is going to rise above and take the lead."

None of the three has been a force offensively. Joseph batted .260 at double-A Richmond before being sent to the Phillies last year in the Hunter Pence trade. He then hit .250 in 28 games for Reading. Rupp hit .267 with Clearwater last season.

Jordan also said that 22-year-old Clearwater catcher Logan Moore "throws the ball as well as any of those guys, if not better."

So the Phillies seem pleased with what they have behind the plate.

"I like our catching situation," Jordan said. "I think what we have is ahead of the industry."

Contact Marc Narducci at Follow on Twitter @sjnard.

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