MOOSIC — It was just two seasons ago when it looked like Corban Joseph was going to be the heir apparent to Robinson Cano as the starting second baseman for the New York Yankees.
In 2012, the season the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees spent on the road while PNC Field underwent renovations, Joseph was arguably the team’s Most Valuable Player on the squad that reached the playoffs for the fifth time in six years.
That year, Joseph only played in 84 games at Triple-A, but mashed. He hit .266 with 13 homers and a .366 on base percentage to get noticed by the Yankees.
He received his first Major League call-up in 2013, but soon after a torn labrum ended his season after he played in just 49 total games between the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders and New York.
Always having been an everyday hitter, Joseph has now adjusted to a new role with the organization as a platoon player, even though it hasn’t been easy.
“It’s probably been one of the hardest things for me in my whole entire career to do,” Joseph said. “Early in the season you can tell I really struggled with it because I didn’t understand. I was playing everyday the year before felt really good, got in rhythm and my June and July has been by breakout.”
In the first month of the season, Joseph couldn’t find a rhythm as he batted just .200 in 17 games for the RailRiders. That sluggish start led to limited playing time in May seeing action in just 10 games during the second month of the season. After a down June, Joseph started to get on a roll in the last two months of the season. He put up a .382 average in July, while hitting at a .333 clip in August raising his overall number to .267. He credits his resurgence to more time in the batting cage.
“Now, I’m working really hard in the cage, cranking up the machine to see harder pitching just trying to get my eyes acclimated with different speeds,” he said. “I think it’s really benefited me to be in this situation where I can say ‘now I know what my mindset has to be and make adjustments at the plate if I’m in this situation ever again.’ It’s something to always have in your back pocket.”
Of late, Joseph has been one of the hottest RailRiders while seeing time at first base and designated hitter. He’s hit safely in nine of his last 10 games with the only exception being a 14-inning affair on Aug. 13 when he entered late as a pinch-hitter and stayed in the game.
“I have days when I don’t play everyday, but when I get in there I just try to lock in as much as I can and try to get a good pitch to hit, try to get good wood on it,” he said. “
It could be easy to see why Joseph has turned into a platoon player. The left-hander batter is hitting just .189 against southpaws this season, while .284 versus righties with all four of his homers. He can work in the indoor batting cage more and more, but it’s still not the real thing, even though the RailRiders have a very high-tech pitching machine that has three wheels, changes speeds and can be used to see different pitches.
“Facing a pitcher, it’s totally different, you’re seeing everything at once,” he said. “It’s just being able to get your eyes as acclimated as you can; that’s the biggest challenge from not playing to playing.”
Recently, he’s become accustomed to the change. If he continues to do so, he may be getting recognized by the Big League club sooner rather than later.