Even casual observers of the Minor Leagues know that Giants catcher Buster Posey is one of the game's premier prospects. Posey's permanent arrival in San Francisco seems imminent, and the Florida State product expects to see time at first base and behind the plate in order to minimize the physical wear and tear over the long haul.
Another reason the Giants have Posey playing some first base is the presence of Tommy Joseph in Augusta. San Francisco's second-round pick in 2009 out of an Arizona high school, Joseph is also deemed an elite catching prospect by the organization. Even so, he too is broadening his defensive horizons by making an occasional start at first.
"It's really cool that they think I may have a chance to play in the big leagues some day," said Joseph, who played first base during his first three years of high school. "Buster Posey is a great guy. I worked out with him a little bit in the offseason, right before Spring Training. His work ethic is incredible. To be in the same conversation as Buster Posey is definitely an incredible situation."
Given his lack of experience at catcher, Joseph's defensive skills are raw. He possesses above-average arm strength and accuracy and has excellent baseball intelligence. The Scottsdale, Ariz., native has work to do with his footwork and some other mechanical issues, but the Giants believe he has developed nicely with the leather in a short period of time.
His defensive skills notwithstanding, Joseph's calling card is his bat. San Francisco farm director Fred Stanley has said the team envisions Joseph and Posey hitting in the same lineup, which necessitates defensive flexibility. Joseph is the first to admit that as long as he has the lumber in his hands, he has little concern about which position he's manning.
"Hitting has always been my strength," Joseph said. "It's a lot harder now because I'm facing pitchers who can throw every pitch they have at just about any time they want. That makes me want to do even more to get prepared for every at-bat. I've loved hitting ever since I was a little kid, and it's something I don't even consider to be work. I want to be that guy the team can count on to get the big hit or keep the rally going."
The GreenJackets are beginning to count on Joseph even though, at age 18, he's one of the youngest players this season in the SAL. After signing too late last August to see any activity, Joseph made his professional debut on Opening Day and responded with a 3-for-4 performance at Greensboro that included a home run and five RBIs. He went hitless in six straight games and 21 at-bats shortly thereafter before clouting a two-run walk-off roundtripper vs. Charleston on April 18.
Joseph owns a five-game hitting streak during which he has driven in nine runs. He has three home runs and 17 RBIs in his first 18 contests to go with his .246 average.
"I expected the game to be faster and I expected all of the players to be better, and so far I've been right," Joseph said. "Playing every day and the long bus rides take a toll on your body. That's definitely been the biggest adjustment I've had to make during the early part of the season. But there's nothing else I'd rather be doing. It's all worth it to have the opportunity to make baseball my career for a long time to come."
Hood looking good: Hagerstown OF Destin Hood leads the SAL with a .386 batting average after hitting safely in 17 of his first 19 games this season. Hood has nine multi-hit outings, including three in his last five contests.
RiverDog rolling: Charleston's Graham Stoneburner was named the SAL's Pitcher of the Week after allowing only two runs and 11 hits over 14 innings. The Clemson product had his best performance as a professional April 24 vs. Rome when he limited the Braves to one run on three hits over eight innings and retired 20 straight batters from the second to eighth frames.
Lagging early: Rome has the league's worst record at 7-14, even though the Braves easily top the loop with a staff ERA of 2.76. Not surprisingly, Rome ranks next-to-last in the SAL with a .223 batting average.