First, it was Domonic Brown in 2011. Last year, it happened to Aaron Altherr. This year, it almost happened to Tommy Joseph.
In the first inning of the Phils’ 9-0 beatdown of the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday, Joseph was plunked on the side of his left hand by starter Aaron Blair, doing his best John Lannan impersonation. At first, Joseph stayed in the game, but later was replaced by spring superstar Brock Stassi (who later hit a triple and homered... again).
Thankfully, Joseph escaped major injury (quotes per CSN Philly’s Jim Salisbury).
"I got lucky," he said.
Joseph said his hand felt sore when he went to grab a bat to hit in the third inning and decided to play it safe and get some X-rays, which turned out to be negative. Instead, he said he got a blood blister.
"If it would've hit higher [on my hand] it probably would've gotten more bone," he said. "But I have a little muscle and fat there."
Losing Joseph would have been a real bummer for a franchise that has seen a number of injuries happen to young players in spring training who, like Joseph, seemingly had a lack on everyday jobs.
In 2011, top prospect Domonic Brown was slated to be the everyday right fielder for the Super Rotation season that ultimately ended up with a disappointing loss in the NLDS to the St. Louis Cardinals. But Brown fractured the hamate bone in his right hand during a swing in a spring game, and then all hell broke loose.
Brown eventually returned in late May, but his power was gone. He got off to a dreadful start in which he slugged just 5 home runs in 209 plate appearances. His struggles after getting plunked forced the Phils to trade for Hunter Pence at the trade deadline (who was later traded for Joseph the following season), pushing Brown’s timeline back two full years.
Last year, Aaron Altherr was guaranteed the starting right field job after having an impressive cup of coffee with the Phils in the final month of 2015. In just 39 games that year he put up an fWAR of 1.8 and had a wRC+ of 125 in 161 PAs.
But then, fate intervened. Altherr suffered a major injury to his left wrist while making a diving catch at the beginning of spring training, derailing his 2016 season. He spent almost four months recovering before returning in late July, where he struggled badly to regain his power.
Overall he hit .202/.304/.293 with just 4 dingers in 227 PAs and an fWAR of -0.3 in ‘16, and after the Phillies traded for Howie Kendrick and signed Michael Saunders to a free agent deal, Altherr went from being assured a starting spot in the outfield to being the forgotten man in the Phils’ outfield plans.
Like Brown and Altherr, Joseph has virtually been handed an everyday job. No, Stassi’s incredible spring is not going to force the Phils into a platoon situation at first base, at least not yet. And Rhys Hoskins, despite an impressive spring, isn’t pushing for MLB playing time yet either.
So for a brief moment, it was deja vu all over again when Joseph left the game, and had the injury been serious, would have been crushing for a player who has bounced back from multiple concussions and a position change to become a middle-of-the-order slugger for the Phils.
The hope is Joseph can improve upon his surprising 21 home runs, .257/.308/.505 slash line, 113 wRC+ and 0.9 fWAR from a year ago, given the opportunity to play everyday. But he has to stay healthy in order to do that.
Something previous youngsters Brown and Altherr were not able to do.