I know one doesn’t want to fall into the trap of overreacting to small samples, but to think it took until August 14th to conclude that neither Jurickson Profar nor Franklin Barreto was the answer to 2B in 2019.
I know there has been some consternation over the A’s announcing they were going to give Barreto “his shot” and then pulling the plug after all of 48 plate appearances, but you also have to factor in just how bad those 17 games were. In putting up a slash line of .106/.125/.255 (37.5% K-rate), Barreto accomplished the seemingly impossible: literally being twice as bad at the plate as Profar.
Meanwhile, Profar seemed to be moving past his “yips” only to have them resurface with a vengeance. What has been consistent all year is his “swing hard for the fences” approach from the left side that has yielded an absurdly sad .177/.245/.372 line. 5 months into this failed venture, Profar’s swing and approach look the same as they did in April.
So is Joseph just “anybody but Profar or Barreto”? Is he shiny strictly because he has not yet failed? Is he a feel good slash line produced mostly by the conditions in Las Vegas and around the Pacific Coast League?
The answer is: sort of, but no. You can’t just look at every player in the PCL and summarily dismiss everything he accomplishes with a loud “Pshaw!” Nor should you dismiss the production of every player who is old for his league solely on the basis of his age.
What you can reasonably conclude is that Joseph did not suddenly become the type of hitter who slugs .585. That’s the PCL at work. But Joseph’s career line of .293/.363/.440 goes back to when he was 20 years old, and back when he was not old for his league and when he batted in neutral parks, Joseph has shown the ability to hit for average and make a lot of contact.
Let’s face it: in order to provide an upgrade at 2B for this team in the middle of a pennant race, Joseph just needs to play average defense and bat around .250. The bar is low. But the reason I think this is a good move is that Joseph brings precisely the skill set lacking in the current lineup.
Joseph bats LH, he makes a lot of contact, you can play “small ball” with him, and in that description alone he just distinguished himself positively from any other candidate at the position. Including Chad Pinder who, while a threat at the plate, does not have much of an approach besides, “swing hard, try to hit it hard, miss a lot.” Pinder may do this fairly well, but it is a limited approach.
So the A’s have gone up against pitchers (like Lucas Giolito) who had their “K-game” going and mostly what that resulted in was a lot of Ks. They have lived, and died, by the HR, recently being oft frustrated by the inability to move runners around in between jacks.
In today’s first taste of Joseph, a somewhat ordinary 1 for 4 debut, we saw a single and a sac fly (on a 3-0 green light). In coming days we may see a timely hit-and-run, a productive out, perhaps a safety squeeze — all dynamics you don’t see much from the current A’s because understandably you are not going to put Piscotty or Davis in motion, hit-and-run with Olson, bunt with Canha. With Joseph, some of these creative ways to score may get back on the table and with it the A’s may become a slightly more dynamic offense.
In part it comes down to Joseph’s skill set being, even if limited, very complementary to the rest of the A’s lineup. And in part it comes down to Joseph appearing to understand who he is as a hitter — something I cannot really say about either Barreto or Profar.
No I don’t expect Joseph to bat anything near the .371/.421/.585 he enjoyed at AAA at age 30. I will put my “over/under” at .260/.320/.380 with average defense and good “small ball skills,” and will also note that hitting this bar would make him a significant upgrade over what the A’s have put up with for 5 months.
I don’t expect Joseph to bat over .300 or to suddenly become the A’s “2Bman of the future”. What I do expect — and it’s partly due to just how disappointing Profar and Barreto have been — is to look back on this someday soon and wonder, “What TOOK them so long?”