Fantasy Baseball

Catching Up With Tommy Joseph

A few years ago, Tommy Joseph was considered the top catching prospect in the game then multiple concussions at the position necessitated his move to first base.  This position change sunk his fantasy value in dynasty formats.  However, a funny thing happened in 2016, Joseph tore up AAA in 27 games, hitting 6 home runs while triple-slashing .347/.370/.611.  This was enough production for the Phillies to promote Joseph to the major league level.

Joseph played inconsistently across 107 games with Ryan Howard still in town, receiving 347 PAs.  Despite inconsistent at-bats, Joseph was able to amass 21 home runs while triple-slashing .257/.308/.505.  The Phillies have already communicated their intention to proceed with Joseph as their regular first baseman.  

Although this proclamation was made, I think his NFBC ADP of 220.08 reflects some skepticism about his playing time and performance.  Is it warranted?

Joseph made hard contact on 36.6% of his batted balls.  Jospeh quite clearly sold out for power as his GB/FB ratio of 0.82 was tilted heavily towards flyballs.  He also pulled the ball at 41.9% rate – pulled flyballs that are hit hard equal power.  Statcast data also supports Joseph’s power with Barrels per plate appearance of 7.8% well above league average 6.2%.

While the power is real, there are some reasons for concerns in other areas.  For one, Joseph’s 6.3% BB% and 21.6% K% – along with a flyball heavy profile, these numbers indicate two things: (1) he is an average risk despite the ample hard contact and (2) his slumps will really hurt.  Last year, his BABIP was just .267 and that was enough to support a .257 average, which is not a killer.  

STEAMER expects the K-Rate to improve, but with a 11.1% SwStr% and a contact rate of 78% that improvement is not baked into the numbers, rather from projected growth at the plate and due to experience.  The projected  growth is not unreasonable, but remember that growth is not always linear.  Joseph does swing at pitches outside the zone at an above average rate and makes slightly below average contact on those pitches.  This is a weakness that can be exposed – as I have highlighted with other young players, like Trea Turner.

It is also possible that Joseph’s ADP is baking in some injury risk and “bad team” discount.  The first is partially warranted, but he is less likely to sustain a concussion at first base than behind the dish so any concern may be a little strong.  With respect to “bad team” discount, the Phillies offense has enough players at MLB – Maikel Franco, Odubel Herrera, and Cesar Hernandez – and reinforcements on the way – J.P. Crawford, Jorge Alfaro, and Nick Williams – that I am not terribly worried about Joseph’s run production.

While I like Joseph’s profile and it makes certain other player’s ADP – for instance, see Mark Trumbo (59.72) – look ridiculous, there is a glut of similar players going behind Joseph that have longer track records – Justin Bour (306.22), Lucas Duda (330.39), Brandon Moss (320.94).  If you buy a significant increase in skills, then I could support taking the shot on Joseph over these players.  However, I do not project substantial improvement and much more likely to pick from the trio above between 85-110 picks after Joseph.  

My Projection: GP 139, 24 HR, 59 R, 76 RBI, .249/.314/.461.

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