For most of this past season, Caleb Joseph carried a heavy load for the Frederick Keys.
As a catcher, he had to handle a pitching staff that included top pitching prospects like Brian Matusz and Zach Britton. As a hitter he batted in the middle of the Keys’ order.
Joseph delivered on offense and defense.
At the plate for much of this season he was the Carolina League’s leading hitter. Fatigue finally caught up with him in August and his average tumbled when he batted just .156 for the month.
Still he hit .284-12-60 with 23 doubles and finished among the league’s top ten hitters. The 23-year-old right handed hitter produced nine of his 12 homers vs. lefty pitchers. He hit over .300 in every month, from April through July.
“I feel really good about it,” Joseph said. “You know I was able to skip a level and still have success. I can go home and hang my hat on my numbers, but I’m still not satisfied.
“I went pretty much the whole year leading for the batting title, but I slipped up in August. I’ve got to go home and figure out how to make August just another month. So I’m happy with the season but not satisfied.”
Joseph was drafted in round seven last year out of Lipscomb University. He then hit .261-8-34 at Aberdeen. After a strong spring he was sent, not to Delmarva, but to Frederick.
But his .300 average and hopes of a batting title faded amidst those dog days of August.
“For sure, (I got fatigued) it’s the first time I’ve caught 100 games back-to-back. I would say it’s fatigue but I was still making contact; I wasn’t striking out, but I would hit lazy fly balls instead of doubles.
“It was something that I need to go through. I can look back now and say it was a good thing it happened because I’ve never had any long slump like that in my life. It’s better it happened now than in say in Triple-A when you are knocking on the door to the big leagues.
“You have to battle it mentally. This kind of hit me out of nowhere. Before I knew it I was kind of in more of a mental slump than a physical slump. You also have to be physically prepared for it. You have to get your whole body stronger. All in all, I held up pretty well this year for now knowing what to expect.”
After reporting to training camp at 194 pounds this year, he hopes to return and play at a little over 200 pounds next year.
He’ll return to his Nashville home this winter. He may also return to Athletes Performance Institute for rigorous workouts leading into spring training.
“One of my biggest goals for the season was to get better defensively and I’ve come a long way. My caught stealing percentage doesn’t always show the improvement I’ve made. That depends on the pitchers’ times.”
Joseph became fast friends with Brian Matusz when he began the year in Frederick. And throughout the year he got to catch Zach Britton, the lefty who was named the top pitcher in the Carolina League.
“He’s (Britton) come so far since spring training. His stuff has always been there, the power sinker and slider. He’s been working on his mental approach to the game and how he’s going to approach hitters and control the running game.
“This guy went from somewhat of a sleeper to maybe the number one prospect in the organization. He’s going to be in the Majors pretty soon and the fans will see he’s a special guy.”
Joseph made his own mark this year, as well. He proved the minor league staff was right in sending him to Frederick. Now he looks forward to winter workouts and a shot at Double-A ball in 2010.