Tyler Austin is the biggest story this year in the Yankee system, without much question. His breakout has been real and powerful, and he is a now a solid top-50 prospect in all of baseball. But I think that a number of stories are flying under the radar right now. The most under-the-radar-y, and in my book #2 most important story of the year, is what’s going on with Corban Joseph.
Corban Joseph has always been an intriguing prospect, but also a classic ‘tweener candidate. The Yankees picked him up out of high school in the 4th round out of the 2008 draft, a year known much more for Yankee failures than successes. Up until 2011, he put up fairly consistent .280/.360/.430 type numbers throughout the minor leagues. That line would have made him an interesting prospect to be an above-average major league 2nd baseman, but he always had question marks at the position. He was barely holding on to the position defensively, and still draws poor marks. He wasn’t hitting well enough for a corner spot, so Joseph looked like a future bench player at best.
But something happened this year. Still just 23, Joseph started the season at Double-A, which he had reached first as a 21 year-old in 2010. He demonstrated his mastery over that level’s pitchers by hitting .314/.412/.430 in 23 games, earning a promotion to Triple-A early on. Since then, he’s hit as well as at any time during his career. His Triple-A batting line sits at .270/.375/.511. His defense is still bad, but he’s showing off skills that could either land him as a starting 2b, useful utility player, or even a decent option at left field.
Best yet, Joseph is hitting for power. His 9 home runs have already exceeded his career high, and he has 23 doubles and 2 triples to go with them in just 72 games. The home runs are not lucky shots, either. Joseph is hammering the ball, including hitting one of the longest home runs in Lehigh Valley history. Joseph had before been primarily a gap-to-gap hitter, so this is a very new, and exciting, development.
There’s more to like too. He has taken 46 walks over 69 games, while only striking out 48 times. This represents the best ratio of his career. That this is happening at the same time as a power surge and a promotion to Triple-A is a pretty special thing. With the injury to Alex Rodriguez and generally depleted Yankee roster, it is happening at the right time for Joseph as well. We will definitely see him in September, and may even seen him earlier than that. I’d be shocked if he didn’t have a major league job somewhere to start 2013. He provides excellent Cano-exodus insurance, and would be even more intriguing in a platoon with David Adams.