Monday, February 17, 2014

Prospect Countdown: #18 Donnie Joseph

18. Donnie Joseph Left Handed Reliever

Age: 26
Height: 6'3" 
Weight: 190
B/T: L/L
Acquired: Via trade along with RHP J.C. Sulbaran from the Cincinnati Reds for reliever Jonathon Broxton in July 2012

2013 Rank: 15

Landon Adams (17): When the Royals acquired Donnie Joseph with J.C. Sulbaran for Jonathan Broxton in 2012, many pointed to Sulbaran as the primary piece to the deal. A season and a half later, Joseph will be competing for a bullpen spot, while Sulbaran has been a dumpster fire since his arrival in the Royals system. This is not to say that at the time of the trade their wasn't interest in Joseph and some even suggested that at the time of the deal, Joseph was a better reliever than Broxton. 

Joseph features good stuff with a low 90s fastball and a filthy slider. He is a two pitch monster that hasn't had any difficulty in striking out opposing hitters throughout his career. In 280 Minor League innings, the former 3rd round pick has rung up 382 hitters. He's even kept up the pace at the big league level with 7 Ks in 5.2 innings. 

As a professional, Joseph had has trouble with command. He holds a career walk rate of 4.5 batters per 9 innings. It should also be noted, that Joseph is much more effective against left handers than he is righties. Over the last three Minor League seasons, left handers have hit .181/.287/.302 against him, while he has posted a 3.09 K:BB ratio. On the other side of the coin, against right handed hitters, Joseph has allowed a .267/.368/.394 line with just a 1.97 K:BB. 

Given his skillset, it seems a safe bet that Joseph will carve out a decent career as a lefty specialist. However, he has yet to shown the ability to be a full inning guy out of the bullpen. If he can't be a full inning guy, then instead of having the upside of a set up man or closer, he is more limited to a future as a LOOGY.
Paden Bennett (NR): I didn't put Joseph in my prospect ranks because I see him as major league ready.  I think Joseph has the stuff, the demeanor, and the out pitch to be a big league reliever.  I think Joseph should start the year in Kansas City; although I could see him starting in the minors.  I think Joseph could be more than just a LOOGY.  He has great stuff as evidenced by his 84 K's in 54 innings for Omaha last season.  I really like this kid, and I hope to see him on the opening day roster in KC.

Joe Cox (29): When the Royals traded Jonathan Broxton for J.C. Sulbaran and Donnie Joseph during the 2012 season, I thought that Sulbaran was a nice up and coming arm and Joseph was a major league ready LOOGY.  Since then, Sulbaran has had problems with staying on the field, and being effective when he is, and Joseph has pitched just 5.2 innings in the major leagues.  

Joseph, 26, has always been known as having below average control, but it has gone from bad to worse since he was traded.  Joseph pitched in 55 innings (47 games) last year in AAA, walking 40 batters, good for 6.59 BB/9.  Even for a LOOGY who will come in and face majority of same handed batters, this won’t cut it at the major league level.  What could lead to major league success, however, is his ability to miss bats, as Joseph had a 13.83 K/9 last year in AAA.  

I think that ability gives him a good shot at making the major league roster next year out of spring training, even with the plethora of bullpen arms the Royals have.  Given a defined role as a lefty specialist, I think he has a shot of being in some high leverage situations next year for a competitive Royals team.  But this won’t last if he continues his two year trend of walking 6+ guys per nine.

Dan Ware (15): Joseph had somewhat of a better showing for the Storm Chasers in his 2nd season with the club. Although his ERA was barely below 4 and his command still has some issues that need worked on, a positive note to look at is that he posted a career high K/9 rate with 13.8 for the Storm Chasers. The 26 year old can be labeled as a lefty-specialist out of the 'pen. 

He has a 92-95 mph fastball and an above average slider that is almost unhittable if he keeps his control in check.  Donnie managed to get the call to the Royals for his ML debut, but luck simply wasn't on his side last season, as far as duration.  In 3 separate promotions to Kansas City, he threw 5.2 innings in 6 appearances with 7 K, 4 BB, allowing 4 hits, while not giving up any runs.  Joseph could very well earn a spot in the bullpen come Spring Training to start the season pending injuries or failed expectations from other candidates.

Nicholas Ian Allen (--): We will see more of Donnie Joseph in Kansas City soon. The 6’3” reliever throws very hard for a lefty - up to 95 with movement, and features a plus-plus slider that can be unhittable. Unlike many big league pitchers, Joseph has been a reliever since day one and has never started a game in the Minor Leagues. 2013 was great for Joseph, and he made his Major League debut on July 11. The Texan will be 26 in 2014, and has an opportunity to make the club out of spring training.

Joseph’s calling card is his ability to get left-handed hitters out. Though he has closing experience (62 career saves), he projects as a LOOGY. In the minors, he has held left-handed hitters to a .181/.287/.302 line. In 2013, lefties hit just .160 against him. Of course, no one hit him well in Omaha in 2013. He struck out 13.82 per nine innings, including 34.9% of all the hitters he faced - which believe-it-or-not is just the second best mark of his career (40.2% in 30.1 IP for Pensacola in 2012). Prior to his call up in July, of the 59 hitters that had struck out against Joseph, 52 did so swinging. When hitters managed to make contact, it was not usually solid, as Joseph held them to a 9.6 LD% in 2013. While he will be utilized most often against lefties, Joseph is not a one-trick pony. He still had a 10.16 K/9 against right-handers, good for a 24.7 K%. He also kept the ball on the ground: 48.7%.  

When looking at Joseph, he reminds me of Pittsburgh’s Justin Wilson. They are certainly different, as Wilson was a starter in college and in the minors and pitches multiple innings when necessary. However, both are hard throwing lefties that get plenty of swings and misses. Both also have had some command issues. Because he has options, expect Joseph to start the year in Omaha, but see plenty of time in KC.

Total Points: 42

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