A look at Caleb Joseph’s big season and why he is still at Double-A

He is 27 and playing in Double-A for the fourth year in a row. Except for 22 games with Triple-A Norfolk last summer, Bowie catcher Caleb Joseph has not advanced past the Eastern League.

He is having a big year at Bowie, so the obvious question is this: Why is he still in Bowie and not playing at Norfolk at this point?

For now, it seems to come down to the fact that Chris Snyder is the regular catcher at Triple-A and the organization would rather Joseph be a regular in Double-A then getting less playing time as a backup at Triple-A.

Here is a comparison of Joseph’s stats from 80 games last year at Bowie and through 63 games this season at Double-A.

In 2012: .272 avg, 12 homers, 48 RBIs, .470 slugging, .812 OPS.
In 2013: .297 avg, 14 homers, 52 RBIs, .542 slugging, .891 OPS.

Joseph’s 14 homers are already a career high and he has four more RBIs in 63 games with Bowie than he had in 80 there last year. He was drafted in round seven by the Orioles in 2008 out of Lipscomb University.

Is being 27 and still at Double-A working against Joseph?

“Not for Caleb at this point,” Orioles director of player development Brian Graham said. “We want Caleb to be a big league catcher. We want him to be a guy that can help us at the big league level. So he needs to catch every day and continue to swing the bat well and at the end of the year we’ll look up and see where he is.”

But does Graham worry that Joseph, or any player in his position, could get frustrated playing so much at one level and not advancing to the next?

“Absolutely, that is a concern,” Graham said. “It takes tremendous maturity for a player to handle a situation where you are playing at the Double-A level, but wish you were playing at the Triple-A or major league level. He has handled that tremendously.

“But he has to catch every day and Snyder is up there (with Norfolk) catching every day and he (Snyder) is a guy that could go to the big leagues and help us if we have a need.

“He (Joseph) is doing what you hope every player does, get better every year. He has done himself a world of good this year by swinging the bat the way he is and improving the way he is defensively.

“To be able to develop an offensive catcher is a great thing. He is catching the majority of the time at Double-A, his defense is improving and he’s doing a great job. He is a better (defensive) catcher this year than he was last year. He is making strides and getting better.

“He is one of the most mature players I’ve ever been around at this level. Caleb is putting himself on the radar.”

Joseph has been cleaning up on left-handed pitching this season, batting .460 with a .730 slugging percentage and 1.237 OPS against southpaws.

Bowie manager Gary Kendall knows Joseph and his swing pretty well. He managed him in 2008 at short-season Single-A Aberdeen and for the past three seasons with Bowie.

“I thought last year was a year that I really saw some things,” Kendall said “Going back to when I was with him at Aberdeen, I always thought the ball came off his bat very well for a slender-build guy.

“It just came down to using the whole field and putting good at-bats together. That is where he’s really improved. If you look at his power this year, they are not all pull homers. He has driven the ball to center and right.

“He’s a tough out with two strikes and stays on the breaking ball better than he did a year ago. As a young player he chased some elevated fastballs and he doesn’t do that as much. He’s more of a thinker now and he is really putting the work in.”

Joseph can only hit the pitchers they put in front of him and succeed at the level where the club places him. The fans in Bowie have seen him play a lot, but they’ve never seen him play this well.

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