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Former Phillie Tommy Joseph waived in KBO


Tommy Joseph was once a top Phillies prospect. (Ian D’Andrea)

Earlier this week, former Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Hunter Pence made an improbable appearance on the American League All-Star roster, just months after he wasn’t offered a guaranteed major league contract. The man who once headlined the return that the Phillies got when they traded Pence in July of 2012 didn’t have quite as good of a week.

Tommy Joseph, a former top catching prospect, is currently playing in the Korean Baseball Organization. It appears he’ll be joining a new team soon, though, as Dan Kurtz of MyKBO.com reported that the LG Twins waived Joseph earlier this week after signing former major leaguer Carlos Peguero.

Joseph, still only 27, signed a one-year/$1 million deal with the LG Twins last November after spending the 2018 season between Double-A and Triple-A in the Texas Rangers organization, which, ironically, is the team Pence now plays for.

In 197 at-bats this season in the KBO, Joseph is slashing .274/.332/.426 with nine home runs and 36 RBIs. He hasn’t turned into a superstar, but he also hasn’t struggled either. That makes you think a team could claim Joseph, or work out a trade once he clears waivers. Presumably, he wants to continue playing in the KBO, which has 10 teams.

With Chase Utley and Ryan Howard both having missed significant time in the 2012 season, the Phillies attempted to retool at the trade deadline, a year after they won a franchise-record 102 games. Pence, who was eligible to become a free-agent after that season, was traded to the Giants, where he helped lead them to two World Series titles and became a franchise icon.

Joseph, at the time, was one of the Giants top prospects and the thought was he would eventually succeed Carlos Ruiz behind the plate. The Phillies also landed outfielder Nate Schierholtz, who homered once in 66 at-bats the rest of the season, and minor league pitcher Seth Rosin, who gave up seven runs in his lone major league appearance with the Phillies in 2015.

Joseph, meanwhile, struggled with concussions in the minor leagues that forced him during the summer of 2015 to quit catching. He converted to first base, but his strong arm was negated at first base. Joseph hit 43 combined home runs between 2016 and 2017, but at first base, that was more par for the course, where it would have been elite power for a catcher, and likely allowed him to overcome his .290 career on-base percentage. Instead, Joseph, understandably, was usurped by Rhys Hoskins at first base and hasn’t gotten another chance at the major league level.

Joseph probably saw the KBO as an opportunity to make more money than he would have in the major leagues and become a star, something he wasn’t on his way to being in America. Former Phillies first baseman/left fielder Darin Ruf has played for the Samsung Lions since 2017, and after being a fringe major leaguer, Ruf has become a superstar in the KBO, including leading the league in RBIs in 2017. Whether Joseph is able to have any success close to that level in the KBO remains to be seen.

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