Oakland Athletics: Why the A’s are giving minors veteran Corban Joseph a shot

MESA, ARIZONA - FEBRUARY 19: Corban Joseph #76 of the Oakland Athletics poses for a portrait during photo day at HoHoKam Stadium on February 19, 2019 in Mesa, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
MESA, ARIZONA - FEBRUARY 19: Corban Joseph #76 of the Oakland Athletics poses for a portrait during photo day at HoHoKam Stadium on February 19, 2019 in Mesa, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

The Oakland Athletics recently called up second baseman Corban Joseph. But what does it mean for the defensive liability, Jurickson Profar, and the struggling former top-100 prospect, Franklin Barreto?

Yesterday, San Francisco Chronicle columnist and resident insider Susan Slusser broke the news that the Oakland Athletics would be selecting the contract of Corban Joseph, a hot-hitting infielder who has quietly been auditioning for the role of “second baseman to replace Jurickson Profar.”

The catch: the Las Vegas Aviators “prospect” is turning 31 in October.

Joseph joins the team in San Francisco today for his first major league stint since September of last season with the Baltimore Orioles. And he will be thrown right into the fire starting at second base and batting seventh.

For many avid Aviators fans, the call-up has been long overdue. He’s put together a .371 batting average this season to go along with 35 doubles, which is the second-most in the Pacific Coast League.

The A’s acquired Corban Joseph as a result of the Triple-A phase of the 2018 Rule 5 Draft, selecting him 22nd overall from the Orioles system.

Before his stint with Baltimore, he was regarded as a respectable prospect contained within a stacked Yankees system that has fielded some of the most electric players in recent years.

According to initial scouting reports, Joseph was listed as having a “60-plus” hit grade, meaning the expectation from the get-go was that he could put the ball in play as a top-of-the-order bat. He quickly displayed solid fundamentals and an above-average throwing arm to go along with a good eye at the plate.

But time was working against him.

Oakland Athletics: Which players have the best 2019 Players’ Weekend jerseys?. light. Also

A near-.300 batting average and high on-base percentage were nice to look at, but the reality was that, by the time he was being considered for a call-up with Baltimore, he was already approaching 30. He has only accumulated 24 major league at-bats in the past decade.

So, in response, he casually bumped up his average by over sixty points from one season to the next.

In 97 games this season, he has littered his name across the PCL leaderboard — third in batting average, sixth in on-base percentage (.421), ninth in slugging (.585). These are all, predictably, career-best numbers at any level in his eleven-year career.

More from Oakland Athletics

Joseph takes a slightly open stance from the left side of the plate, beating the ball into the ground and slapping hits down the line as a result of a short, quick swing that allows him to catch up to pitches dug in on him.

He has shown slightly more pop this season, but largely seems like the kind of player to employ the classic Wee Willie Keeler “hit ‘em where they ain’t” strategy— certainly something that more traditional fans will appreciate about him.

There is no doubt that the Oakland A’s are continuing to search for answers to their production — both offensively and defensively — at second base.

Profar continues to loiter just above the ‘Mendoza line’ while giving manager Bob Melvin grey hairs with his overhand shovel-throws to first. Franklin Barreto, the last hope to salvage anything from the historically-bad Josh Donaldson trade, has somehow made Profar look playable.

Making the call to Corban Joseph addresses several of those issues.

On defense, Joseph has a sparkling .987 fielding percentage — compared to Profar’s .969 and Barreto’s .932 — which, if placed within MLB rankings, would be in the top-five best percentages for second basemen.

He has decent range and shows translatable athleticism in his ability to get to balls in the hole and steal seeing-eye singles. In 480 innings at second base this season, he only has three errors.

While there would likely be some sort of drop-off when it comes to his production on offense, his game should, at the very least, translate as a much-needed left-handed bat on a 25-man roster with virtually no lefty bench options. Against righties this season, Joseph is showcasing an impressive .386/.435/.639 slash-line.

Oakland Athletics: What is Liam Hendriks’ upcoming free agent value?. light. Trending

And as the prototypical Oakland A’s player, Joseph has preserved his plate discipline — striking out only thirteen more times this season than he’s walked.

These numbers should be especially threatening to Barreto who —while only 23 years old — has struck out 40.2% of the time in the majors while only walking in 3.5% of his at-bats.

This roster move has done more to signal the Oakland Athletics’ intentions with Franklin Barreto than it does to signal how much longer the A’s are willing to put up with Profar’s fluctuating ability.

Profar will likely be given a shot at least until the end of the season, but opting to roll with Corban Joseph over Barreto might indicate a shifted perspective on the former top-100 prospect.

Moving Joseph to the major-league roster allows the Aviators to give Sheldon Neuse — who is putting up similarly eye-popping numbers, hitting .322 with 23 home runs and 91 RBI — an opportunity to get more playing time at second base as opposed to fitting into the lineup as a third baseman.

It’d be reasonable to harbor a guess that Neuse — who is only 24 — fits on the A’s roster sometime in the next few years — but it won’t be as a third baseman.

Barreto’s goal with extended time in the minors will likely be to salvage his ability before heading into an offseason where the A’s will have to make some tough roster decisions to protect against this year’s Rule 5 draft. He’ll plausibly be seeing time around the diamond in hopes of becoming a utility bat.

More from Golden Gate Sports

Despite Corban Joseph’s stellar performance so far this year, there are still concerns that the numbers are drastically inflated as a result of playing in the Pacific Coast League.

To put everything in perspective, fellow Aviator Paul Blackburn has the fourth-best ERA in the PCL this season — at 4.28.

Additionally, as corresponding moves, the Oakland A’s will be optioning Nick Martini to Las Vegas and designating Beau Taylor for assignment to clear a spot on the 40-man roster. Taylor has established a positive rapport with the pitching staff in limited big-league games this season.

Corban Joseph may not necessarily live up to the hype that his lofty batting numbers in the minors elicit, but the A’s are playing with house money at this point. They could catch lightning in a bottle with a quality lefty bat off the bench or another option at second base.

Or they could decide that the Corban Joseph of today is the same as the one that’s floundered in the minors for the last decade.

Next. Oakland Athletics: Mike Fiers has become the team’s undisputed ace. dark

In either case, it’s worth a shot.

Worst case scenario, he does have a clean inning of relief on his Triple-A resume this season.