Catasauqua Press

Sunday, May 20, 2018

IronPigs’ Knapp unsure of future

Thursday, August 4, 2016 by CHUCK HIXSON Special to the Press in Sports

Andrew Knapp is in a very interesting situation right now. The young Phillies prospect is playing at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, just one step away from the majors, but he’s not necessarily the next in line to take over behind the plate at Citizens Bank Park.

The first consideration is what’s going on above him. Cameron Rupp is slowly becoming a force to be reckoned with behind the plate for the Phillies.

Rupp’s nine home runs and .289 average are better than most thought to expect from him, and his defense has shown strong improvement. He and the teammate Carlos Ruiz, who is in the last season of his contract, are forming a pretty good combination of catchers.

Rupp gets most of the playing time, but Ruiz handles some of the younger pitchers to help them succeed at the major league level.

The trade deadline is two weeks away. Do the Phillies want to disrupt that mix by dealing either Ruiz or Rupp? And if they do deal one of the two catchers, who comes up to take his place.

Just two weeks ago, IronPigs manager Dave Brundage said that he didn’t think Knapp was ready to make the jump to Philadelphia. There really aren’t any other catching prospects in the organization that would be ready, and there aren’t any veterans in the organization that could be put behind the plate.

“I don’t think he’s quite there yet,” said Brundage. “He’s getting there and he’s going to be able to play at the major league level, but I’d like to see him really spend more time here and get as much experience as he can at this point.”

Below Knapp is Jorge Alfaro, playing at Double-A Reading, and putting up very impressive offensive numbers and showing better defensive skills than Knapp possesses. If not for Knapp at Lehigh Valley, Alfaro would likely be at Triple-A. Some scouts believe that the team could choose to include Knapp in a deal in order to get another young player who may fill a different hole in the organization.

One scout even believes that the Phillies could conceivably jump Alfaro from Double-A to the majors, if they were to deal one of their major league catchers. The prevailing thought is that Alfaro, not Knapp, is the catcher of the future for the Phillies.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Knapp. “I just go out and play and take care of the things on the field and at some point, I hope that they’ll think that I’m ready. You can always be a better player, so I know there are things that I need to keep working on.”

Knapp is coming off a performance in the Triple-A All-Star Game where he hit a solo home run to help the International League to a 4-2 win over the Pacific Coast League.

There has been talk that the Phillies might move Knapp, or possibly Alfaro, to a different position. Alfaro’s defense has gotten good enough that the talk of moving him to a different position has stopped.

With Alfaro pushing Knapp, it’s likely that if the Phillies were going to move Knapp to a different spot on the diamond, they would have done so by now, but Knapp hasn’t even practiced at any position other than catcher.

One scout believes that the reason the Phillies haven’t moved Knapp elsewhere is because it might hurt his value.

“His value is much higher as a catcher, because it’s more of a need position for teams,” said a visiting scout at Coca-Cola Park recently. “If they were to move him now, it would hurt his value. That’s one of the reasons why I believe they may be open to moving him in some sort of a trade.”

“I don’t worry about anything like that,” said Knapp of a potential position change or a trade. “I’ve said before that I would be open to moving positions, but I’d rather stick at catcher, if I have my choice. The truth is that you don’t have a lot of choice in these things and if you spend time worrying about them, it just takes away from what you need to accomplish on the field.”