Thursday, February 17, 2011

2011 Top Prospect List: #12 Donnie Joseph, lhp

Donnie Joseph
Height 6-3, Weight 185, B/T: L/L, DOB: 11/1/1987
2010 Redlegs Baseball Prospect Ranking: #19

The Reds have done a really nice job in the amateur draft over the past few years, which is remarkable considering how awful they used to be in that department. Donnie Joseph was selected with the 88th overall pick in the 2009 draft as a draft eligible junior out of the University of Houston. He has quickly justified the faith of the organization and emerged as a potential impact reliever who can contribute as soon as the 2011 season. Previous incarnations of the front office had a hard enough time finding this type of talent with their first round picks, so the fact that the current front office is landing such talent in the 3rd round is encouraging and the prime reason why the organization has returned to prominence.

2010 Season

Joseph made three stops in 2010. He started out with low-A Dayton, where he made brutally quick work of the competition. He tossed 23.0 truly dominant innings in which he posted a 0.78 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, and a 40/7 K/BB ratio to go along with a 1.42 GB/FB ratio. It was a type of dominance not usually seen outside of the video game world. And, it was a legitimate level of dominance, as he posted a 1.08 FIP and a .317 BABIP, so it wasn't a luck driven performance. He gave up a grand total of 2 earned runs before management finally decided he was ready to be promoted.

His next stop was high-A Lynchburg where he tossed 35.0 equally dominant innings in which he posted a 2.31 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, and a 56/16 K/BB ratio to go with a 1.40 GB/FB ratio. Once again, his performance was supported by the peripherals, as he posted a 2.42 FIP and a .309 BABIP. Surprisingly, he somehow managed to record an 0-4 record despite his dominant numbers.

His final stop was double-A Carolina where he worked in 7.0 innings and posted a 5.14 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, and 7/2 K/BB ratio to go with a 6.00 GB/FB ratio. Here, his overall numbers spiked, but his peripherals remained strong. His FIP was 2.22, which was nearly 3 runs lower than his ERA. Clearly, he was a bit unlucky, as his BABIP jumped to .333, so a few more balls in play fell in for hits than was to be expected.

Just to sum it up, Joseph posted a 15.7 K/9 at low-A, a 14.4 K/9 at high-A, and a 9.0 K/9 at double-A. Obviously, that's an extreme level of dominance, but the more advanced double-A hitters managed to slow him down just a bit.

It's worth noting that, as a 22-year old, he had the age versus level advantage against A-ball competition, but his plus slider will likely play just fine against the more advanced competition.

Repertoire and Pitching Mechanics

Joseph features a nice fastball that sits in the 91-93 range with good movement and a plus slider that's a legitimate knockout pitch. In fact, Joseph's slider can hold its own against any pitch in the entire system this side of Aroldis Chapman's fastball. It has such a sharp, nasty bite that it's an effective pitch against both lefties and righties. An impressive fastball/slider combination has been sufficient to carry many a reliever to a job working high leverage MLB innings. And, that should be the case with Joseph in the very near future.

Here's a look at Joseph courtesy of CoreyBrinn on youtube:

As for mechanics, Joseph is the very definition of high effort. From the windup, he holds his hands just below eye level as he peers over the glove to get the sign from the catcher. After he gets his sign, he steps directly towards thirdbase with his right foot, then shifts his left foot down on the rubber. He then brings his leg kick up past parallel while keeping his hands below his chin. His leg kick incorporates some body coil, as he rotates his hips to wrap his leg around his body and build up energy.

Once he hits the apex of his pitching motion, which is a high, strong energy position, Joseph gathers himself to drive towards the plate. Not surprisingly, given his power pitcher profile, Joseph takes a rather long stride. In fact, his stride is so long that he never really gets his body out over his stride leg. Unlike fellow long striders Tim Lincecum and Aroldis Chapman, who seem to jump off the rubber to get out over their long strides, Joseph struggles to get out over his stride leg. Instead of finishing out over the top of his stride leg, his momentum rolls over his stride leg and causes him to fall off to the third base side. His momentum causes his left leg to cross over his plant leg on his follow-through. Ordinarily, when a lefthander falls off to the third base side it's because his stride foot lands in a closed off position, which forces a pitcher to throw across his body. However, Joseph doesn't fall off to the third base side because he throws from a closed off position, but rather because of the length of his stride.

Here's a look at Joseph courtesy of RedsMinorLeagues on youtube:

Given that Joseph's momentum works around his body and towards third base, it's not surprising that his delivery seems to have a bit of a lean to it. The lean in his delivery gives his arm action the appearance of pulling his pitching arm down and across his body, especially since he throws from a three-quarter arm slot. Given Joseph's arm action, it's easy to see how he gets good movement on his fastball, as it should impart some arm-side run on the ball.

Overall, Joseph has high effort delivery, but produces good results with it. He generates good power for his two pitch mix, which should enable him to work high leverage innings at the highest level.

Final Thoughts

Joseph is a prime example of how plus attributes can drive you up the ladder in a hurry. He may not have a diversified set of skills, but his plus attributes are value drivers. Prospects who have a more well rounded game, but lack plus attributes can frequently wither on the vine. Joseph, on the other hand, is one of the most electric pitchers in the system despite relying solely on a two pitch mix.

Relievers are almost always volatile and Joseph's mechanics may lead to inconsistency at times, but he has an electric arm and could be a factor as soon as 2011. In a season where the Reds are once again seeking the postseason, Joseph could provide a significant boost in the dog days of summer, which is yet another example of the benefits of a strong player development system. For now, Joseph checks in at #12, but he's unlikely to be down on the farm for long.


  1. i really like joseph, can wait for him to replace bray in out bullpen!

  2. Smitty,

    Was Bray ever actually in our bullpen? :) Seems like he's a walking MASH unit. He has always seemed more specter than reality.

    As for Joseph, he's exciting. I'm hopeful he settles in as a top drawer 8th inning setup man in the near future. He has the two pitches to thrive in high leverage situations.

    Thanks for the comment!


  3. Yea i agree, i didnt know he only had 2 pitches but i also didnt know he had that kind of slider! Def cant wait to see him pitching in a reds uniform

  4. Smitty,

    Joseph has flirted with a change-up, but it's still rough and he has had little need for it, especially at the lower levels. I fully expect him to continue to rely heavily on his fastball/slider combo at the next level. As a reliever, he won't really need much more.

    I could see him in Cincy as soon as after the All Star break, but probably more likely in September. It should be fun to see what he can do.

    Thanks for the comment!