At the end of each season, the Philadelphia Phillies present the organizational Paul Owens Award to their best positional player and best pitcher in the minor league system.
The award is named in honor of Paul “The Pope” Owens, who was the team general manager most responsible for assembling the roster of the 1980 World Series championship team.
Former recipients of the Owens Award include recent vintage Phillies’ heroes Cole Hamels, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard. This year the positional award was given to catching prospect Andrew Knapp, and the pitching award to Ricardo Pinto.
More from That Balls Outta Here
- Prospect Andrew Baker could help Phillies bullpen in 2023
- Bryce Harper’s absence should lead to Phillies lineup tinkering
- Phillies rumors: Club targets Seth Lugo for possible bullpen role
- Pirates’ bizarre Vince Velasquez hype video will make Phillies fans laugh
- Acquiring Brandon Marsh gave the Phillies flexibility
During the 2015 season, Knapp hit 13 home runs with 84 runs batted in, and fashioned a .308 batting average overall between High A Clearwater and Double A Reading. He began the season by putting up decent, but not flashy numbers for the Clearwater Threshers, with a .262 batting average, 2 home runs, and 11 RBIs.
But it wasn’t until his promotion to the Reading Fightin Phils in June that Knapp truly began to break out. At Reading, Knapp produced a gaudy .360/.419/.631 slash line with 11 homers and 54 RBIs.
Knapp is not considered a great defender at this point. Even if he isn’t the next Yadier Molina with the glove, the Phils would accept a Mike Piazza slugging-type catcher. That is a possibility, if Knapp can continue to put up numbers the way that he did at Reading this year.
Turning 24 years of age on November 9th, Knapp is scheduled to play with other Phillies prospects in the Arizona Fall League for the Glendale Desert Dogs. That fall league season starts today, with Glendale’s first game beginning at 12:35pm.
Knapp will likely start the 2016 season at Triple A Lehigh Valley. If he continues to hit as well as he did during the second half of 2015, Knapp should be able to punch his ticket to Citizens Bank Park by September at the latest.
Pitching honoree Pinto, 21, was signed internationally by the Phillies out of Venezuela in 2011, and is currently ranked as the Phillies #11 prospect by MLB.com.
Jul 31, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA;
Philadelphia Phillies hope Knapp and Pinto can soon join third baseman Franco (7) and center fielder Herrera (37) as productive contributors in the big leagues.
(Photo Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports)
Pinto split this season between Low A Lakewood and High A Clearwater, posting a 2.97ERA with 105 strikeouts in 145.1 innings pitched across the two levels.
In an interview with Todd Zolecki of MLB.com, Pinto discussed his competitiveness and how he believes the ability to pitch inside is the key to his success.
“When I came to the States, I started to refine the inside corner. I have heard that whomever dominates inside is going to be somebody in this game.”
He will likely begin next season in Double A Reading, where Pinto will hopefully be able to continue to pitch well , eventually becoming a contributor to the big league Phillies rotation.
The Phillies ended the 2015 season with a dismal 63-99 record, but talented prospects such as Knapp and Pinto help to highlight that the future is looking brighter.
With the worst record in MLB, the team secured the first pick in the 2016 MLB Draft. They also have a ton of money coming off the books, which will allow them to pursue front-line pitchers and top hitters in free agency over the next few seasons.
With top prospects JP Crawford, Nick Williams, Jake Thompson, and Knapp potentially ready to join Aaron Nola, Maikel Franco, Jerad Eickhoff and Odubel Herrera next year, the Phillies should be aiming to at least be able to compete for a Wildcard playoff spot by the following 2017 season.
The Phillies appear to be on their way to building an exciting young playoff contending nucleus in the mold of the current Cubs and Astros. Hopefully the next few years will be as exciting as when former Paul Owens Award winners Hamels, Howard, and Utley emerged as young studs a decade ago, and helped bring consistent playoff baseball, including a World Series championship, to Philadelphia.
Next: Phillies Past Heroes in 2015 Postseason