As we unveil the 2017 Phillies Value 50, we’ll take a closer look at one of the names in our list each day. Today: first baseman Tommy Joseph.
This time last year, if somebody told you Tommy Joseph would play in 107 games in the big leagues, would you have believed them?
Joseph wasn’t even on the 40-man roster after the 2015 season and spent last spring in minor league camp. After being the centerpiece in the 2012 Hunter Pence trade, his concussion history made him a liability behind the plate. His future looked bleak.
Still at only 24 years old, all hope was not lost. Joseph made the move to first base in attempt to focus his attention on his hitting. And it worked. Joseph absolutely crushed the ball, hitting .347/.370/.611 with a .981 OPS in 27 games in Lehigh Valley. Combine those numbers with Darin Ruf’s struggles, and Joseph was called up on May 13.
In just a few months, Joseph went from playing on the backfields at the Carpenter Complex to platooning at first base with Ryan Howard. He finished his rookie season hitting .257/.308/.505 with 21 home runs and 47 runs batted in, in 107 games.
With the Howard-era officially over, Joseph will be the Phils’ everyday first baseman. While it may seem as if Joseph has finally surpassed the troubles that plagued the start of his career, the 2017 season is shaping up to be his biggest test yet.
Joseph has to prove that he is more than just a platoon hitter. In 2016 he hit .281/.350/.562 against lefties and hit just .248/.291/.482 against righties. His struggles against righties could be just a matter of not getting enough playing time. Regardless, he will have to make the necessary adjustments in order to give Maikel Franco the protection he needs in the middle of the lineup.
Speaking of Franco, if Joseph can carry out the 21 homers and 47 RBI he hit in 2016 over a full season, the Phils’ lineup will reap the benefits. Not only will Joseph solidify his place in the middle of the lineup, but Franco will get better pitches to hit with someone capable of hitting 30 homers on the on-deck circle behind him.
New hitting coach Matt Stairs is looking to improve the Phils offense from being the worst in the majors in 2016. Sounds like a tall task, but with a successful season from Joseph, Stairs’ job gets a whole lot easier.
As the Phillies’ enter another year of the rebuild, the front office is beginning to see who is part of the future and who is not. Joseph has to prove he is the solution at first base, especially with Phils prospect Rhys Hoskins creeping up behind him (not to mention triple-A slugger Brock Stassi making his case for a roster spot). Last season, Hoskins hit .281/.377/.566 with 38 home runs in Reading. He has continued to impress so far this spring. If he continues those numbers in Lehigh Valley this summer, the Phils will have some decisions to make next offseason.
Phils manager Pete Mackanin has said his goal is to be a .500 ball club this season. A productive season from the middle of the lineup with Joseph as the catalyst can make that happen.