As the Orioles backup catcher, Caleb Joseph's fantasy value has been correlated with Matt Wieters' health over the past few seasons. Wieters missed significant time in 2014 and 2015, and Joseph was the main beneficiary, appearing in 82 and 100 games, respectively. The 2016 season was a different story, as Wieters was able to stay relatively healthy and Joseph missed extended time with a groin injury. Joseph, who has never been much of an offensive threat, struggled mightily in his limited playing time, hitting for a .174 average and failing to drive in a single run all season. He recorded only three extra-base hits and ended the season with an ISO of .023. Despite his forgettable performance, Joseph should retain his backup role heading into 2017. The Orioles signed Welington Castillo to a one-year deal with a player option for a second year. Look for Castillo to start four or five days each week with Joseph picking up the remaining starts.
Joseph isn't included in the lineup for Tuesday's Grapefruit League game against the Rays, but indicated his elbow is no longer an issue, Roch Kubatko of MASN Sports reports. Joseph was pulled out of a game Monday after being hit by a pitch, but it sounds as though his removal was strictly precautionary. The backstop said that he'll be available Tuesday, though manager Buck Showalter will hand Francisco Pena the start behind the plate. Joseph still looks poised to beat out Pena for the No. 2 catching job behind Welington Castillo.
Joseph said his elbow is feeling fine and that he is ready to catch again Tuesdat despite being hit by pitch there on Monday, Roch Kubatko of MASN reports. It looks like the Orioles survived a scare, as the damage to Joseph's elbow could have been much worse. Regardless of whether he actually returns to the lineup Tuesday, the Orioles will be glad to not have to replace their backup catcher this late in spring training.
Joseph was forced to leave Monday's game after being hit on the left arm by a pitch, Rich Dubroff of PressBoxOnline.com reports. The best-case scenario for the Orioles here would be if it is just a bruise, which would result in him not having to miss an extended period of time as opposed to if there was a fracture. The 30-year-old is slated to back up Wellington Castillo at catcher this season after slashing .174/.216/.197 but performing well defensively with Baltimore in 2016.
Joseph went 2-for-2 with a walk Saturday versus the Pirates. It was a nice day for Joseph as he continues to take advantage of increased playing time while Welington Castillo is away competing in the WBC. Saturday's performance pushed Joseph's spring average to .389 while bumping his OPS to 1.087 in 18 at-bats. Moreover, the backstop shined on defense, throwing out Phil Gosselin attempting to steal second, and later gunning down Josh Bell trying to advance on a pitch in the dirt. Castillo may not want to stay away from his new club too long, because Joseph seems intent on earning some unexpected playing time in 2017.
Joseph, who will be the backup catcher to Welington Castillo, is optimistic that he's corrected a flaw in his swing that will help him rebound from a poor 2016, Brittany Ghiroli of MLB.com reports. Joseph believes there were certain aspects of his swing that weren't allowing him to be successful. More specifically, the 30-year-old attributes last season's struggles an inability to consistently keep his bat in the zone. Joseph expanded, "Certain guys do certain things and really try to keep the bat in the zone as long as possible. I was in and out of the zone. And when you're in and out of the zone, you only have a really small margin of error." With Castillo headed to the WBC next month, Joseph will see plenty of at-bats in spring training to rehearse his new swing plane.