Josh Phegley’s promotion to the major leagues in July was long anticipated. He had been absolutely dominating AAA competition at the, while Tyler Flowers was doing his best Joe Borchard impersonation as the starting White Sox backstop.
For the first couple of weeks, it was all well and good for the 25-year-old Indiana product. He drove in ten runs over his first ten games, recording a .278 batting average and a .881 OPS.
Despite the team’s constant struggles, fans were catching “Phegley Fever,” and the young catcher was seemingly becoming a Chuck Norris-like figure with the #PhegleyFacts twitter sensation inspired by @NotRickHahn (a GSB! favorite, check him out).
However, instead of Phegley “killing two stones with one bird” or “lighting a fire by rubbing two ice cubes together,” he’s hit .198 with only ten more RBIs in the 42 games since those first ten. It’s resulted in a paltry .216/.228/.317 slashline with just a .545 OPS, a far cry from the .966 OPS he recorded at AAA Charlotte.
While it’s tough to admit, Phegley’s become a part of the catching problem this season. Between Phegley, Flowers, Hector Gimenez and the sporadic play of Bryan Anderson and Miguel Gonzalez this month, White Sox catchers have combined for a .200/.243/.336 slashline with 16 home runs, 54 RBIs, 152 strikeouts and .579 OPS on the season. While the home runs and RBIs aren’t terrible, everything else is.
However, struggles for Phegley were to be expected. Maybe not at this big of a level, but there’s always an adjustment period after players get called up for the first time. It happens to nearly every young prospect: after a decent start, they hit a wall as pitchers adjust as they gain more knowledge of the player.
More than likely, Josh Phegley will be the team’s starting catcher next season. While he’s been pretty bad since mid-July, he’s shown flashes of his lively bat, hasn’t been a bad defender, and hasn’t struck out at a high rate (just 5.6 percent on the season). While it would be nice to see him breakthrough and have a strong finish to the season in 2013, how he does in the early portion of 2014 could be the indicator of whether or not he’s the long-term answer at catcher.
The White Sox like Phegley, the fans like Phegley, and it seems like the players and pitching staff like Phegley. He has the support and confidence of everyone around him. It’s why, along with his talent, that I believe he’s going to succeed as a major league starting catcher.
There’s a lot of things to be upset about when it comes to the 2013 Chicago White Sox, but the struggles of a young, promising catcher who was called up mid-season isn’t one of them. Phegley Fever has been treated for now, but there’s no reason to believe it’s never coming back.