For many of us who follow the Dodgers minor league players there have been some surprises during the current season. Some of the young players have met our expectations, some are still unexpectedly spinning their wheels looking to take-off for the 2018 season and yet others have unexpectedly caught our attention.
One of the surprises, although perhaps not to the Dodgers front office, is Tulsa third baseman Connor Joe who was selected 39th overall by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2014 First-Year Player draft. At that time he was listed No. 100 by Baseball America.
Joe was born in San Diego and graduated from Poway High School in his hometown of Poway. Other graduates of Poway High that we might recognize are Tony Gwynn Jr. and Phil Plantier.
During his senior high school year he was selected as his team MVP, awarded the silver bat and was named a first-team all-star.
Upon graduation from high school Joe headed to the University of San Diego. It was not only close to home for him but had a baseball program that attracted him. He had also been recruited by the University of Arizona and Stanford.
Joe was a third baseman until he got to USD but had to be more flexible in his positioning as third base for the Toreros was owned by Kris Bryant. That is the same Kris Bryant who was selected as the 2016 National League MVP.
However, Joe was to make his own mark at the college level. During his junior year at San Diego he hit .367 with nine homers and a conference-leading 51 runs batted in. He started a pattern of getting to first base via the walk as during his three years of college ball he walked 79 times and struck out 84 times helping him post a .423 OBP. Joe was named the West Coast Conference player of the year as a junior.
Larry Broadway, the Director of Minor League Operations for the Pirates, was not concerned with where Joe played and in his words was, “… betting on the bat.”
Connor Joe sat out his first year as a professional after injuring his right heal when it got stuck in the outfield at Jamestown. The 6’ 0”/ 205-pound right-handed hitter rehabbed until the 2015 season. He used his time to get healthy, learn a lot about himself physically and mentally and learned about the Pirates organization.
At the A-level during the 2015 season Joe hit just .245 with one home run and 20 runs batted in. He did walk 50 times
He moved up to the High-A Bradenton Marauders in 2016 and had a more promising season hitting .277 with a .351 OBP. His expected power had not yet arrived as he hit but five home runs in 107 games. He did drive in 52 runs.
At age-24 Joe moved up to the AA Altoona Curve of the Eastern League to begin the 2017 season. Then on August 5, 2017 he got the call but not the call he might have expected as the trade deadline had passed. He recalls it well..
“It was Larry Broadway, the farm director,’’ Joe said. “Not every day a minor-leaguer hears from the farm director .’’
Broadway informed Joe, now a first baseman, that he had been traded to the Atlanta Braves for major league infielder Sean Rodriguez.
“The whole thing was a little stressful,’’ said Joe, who was hitting .240 with five home runs and 30 RBIs at the time of the trade. “That’s the business side of baseball and the first lesson is I can only control what I can control.”
Initially quite upset by the news, with the help of his family Joe was able to find a positive side to the trade..
“My mind went into a fog,’’ Joe said of that August trade, per Terry Monahan of the San Diego Union-Tribune. “Being traded straight up for a big leaguer made me feel a little better.”
Joe played out the rest of 2017 season with the AA Mississippi Braves of the Southern League where he hit but .135 over 20 games.
His tenure with the Braves lasted just more than a month when he was again traded, this time to the Dodgers for international bonus pool space.
Skip ahead to April 6, 2018 for a game with the AA Tulsa Drillers in Frisco to meet the RoughRiders. Joe, now approaching 26, had two hits in four at bats, one of them a home run.
As the season progressed he has continued to hit and currently leads the league with a .643 slugging percentage, and an OPS of 1.095. His .453 OBP ranks second in the league while his 24 walks are third and his .330 batting average is sixth best. On the season he has posted 13 multiple hit games. He has hit eight home runs in 31 games so the bat that the aforementioned Larry Broadway was looking for may just have ended up in Dodger Blue.
He has played 24 games at third base and seven at first base as a Driller.
Connor Joe most likely will get another call, this time to move up to the OKC Dodgers before too long and at most following the Texas League All-Star game on June 26 which is to be held in Midland, Texas.
Mark Timmons on Monday’s Game
- This loss was on Utley, not Baez. Utley looked his age last night… also in the 9th. There were 2 or 3 plays Forsythe makes that he didn’t.
- That said, they have to score more. Great outing by Striker Buehler.
- Horrible call on Kemp at 1B – he never twitched a muscle towards 2B! Horrible!
- Max Muncy looked like a solution at 1B, at least a LH solution.
- I’m pretty sure the Dodgers will lose more games – Just take each series. That’s the key.
- Had a nice talk and a beer with Bobby last night! Great guy! Smart guy! In many ways – he knows of what I speak! 😉