Baltimore Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph has put a disastrously bad 2016 behind him, and now is once again proving why he is a valuable major league commodity.
2016 was a terrible year for Baltimore Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph.
The 31-year-old played in 49 games, spending significant time on the disabled list due to a serious testicular injury that occurred at the end of May.
However, that wasn’t the only disastrous part of the 2016 season. Joseph also hit .174 with 0 RBIs in 141 plate appearances. No one had ever had that many plate appearances without an RBI.
Move ahead to 2017. Joseph is hitting .280/.312/.432 with 3 HRs, 9 2Bs, 14 RBIs, 11 runs and even one triple. That slash line is well above his career average, and even his best season from 2015.
Not only that, but Joseph also has a 1.2 WAR, combining a 0.7 oWAR and a 0.8 dWAR. Welington Castillo has a 0.9 oWAR and a -0.1 dWAR. Joseph has a fielding percentage of .994, 1 passed ball and a 23 percent caught stealing percentage.
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Castillo, in fewer games, has a .993 fielding percentage, 4 passed balls and a 48 percent caught stealing percentage, which is exceptional.
One could argue that Caleb should be the starting catcher on this team. One could also argue he is, as he has played in more games than Welington Castillo due to injuries to Castillo.
Castillo was taken out of the lineup on Thursday night when he sprained his left knee falling on steps on his way to the bullpen to warm up Ubaldo Jimenez before the game, according to Eduardo Encina.
So, just minutes before the game and at the time where Ubaldo Jimenez needed to start warming up, Caleb got the call. He told the media he was in the middle of his third bite of a slice of pepperoni pizza when he was told he was in the starting lineup.
Earlier on Thursday, Joseph was taking ground balls at third base. With Paul Janish and Ruben Tejada both on the roster, it is curious that Caleb would be taking ground balls at third, and he also supposedly has done some work at first base, where he has played in a game before.
My guess would be that the Orioles are considering going with just one of these guys in the major leagues. That would mean that an injury to Jonathan Schoop would likely move the starter at short stop to second base, Manny Machado to shortstop and Joseph to third.
An injury to Machado would move Joseph to third base. These would be short-term fixes to get through a game.
Earlier in the year, I opined the team should do without Ryan Flaherty, and could flex players to positions in case of injury to get through a game. This was my solution to keeping Craig Gentry on the roster. Right now, with Chris Davis hurt that isn’t an issue. But at some point ideally these injured players will all return.
Getting back to Joseph, he is not a free agent until 2021. Welington Castillo, meanwhile, has a player option for 2018. With Chance Sisco waiting in the wings, you have to imagine Castillo might pick up that option and choose to go elsewhere. The Orioles will probably hope that happens.
If so, they will have a more than capable backup in Joseph. And if for some reason Sisco falters, Joseph is likely able to start until Sisco is ready.