The Philadelphia Phillies visit the Arizona desert for a three-game series with the Diamondbacks at Chase Field, and the Phils catcher is a key to their success.
In June, the Phillies have had little to be happy about. This month they’ve produced a 5-18 record and have looked nothing like the team that briefly was tied for first in the National League East back in mid-May. The Phils have scored only 86 runs – about 3.7 per game – while the pitching has a 5.51 ERA, second-highest in MLB this month.
However, as a bright spot, catcher Cameron Rupp has started to tap into his raw power, demonstrated by the fact that 29.4% of Rupp’s fly balls have gone out for home runs.
Overall, he has five home runs this month, and considering he had just two heading into June, Rupp has shown a complete turnaround from the beginning of the season.
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Since Rupp is now cemented in the starting catcher role, he should have plenty of opportunities to beat his total of nine home runs from the 2015 campaign.
Overall, Rupp went from a .140 ISO in the first two months of this season to a whopping .350 in June, which is ninth in all of baseball. His OPS of .972 this month ranks fourth among all catchers who have 60 or more plate appearances.
As a prospect, Rupp was always a defense-first catcher who had some power but didn’t have the hit tool to incorporate that pop into his game. While it has been in a short stint, Rupp has shown the potential to use his power against major-league talent.
Considering the catching talent the Phillies are developing in the minors, this power flash could provide the team reason to give Rupp a chance to hold his spot in the majors as those youngsters draw closer.
Whether or not Rupp can sustain this success is up for debate. Despite heightened numbers across the board, Rupp has hit fewer line drives each month since the beginning of the year. Also, 27.9% of Rupp’s batted balls have been soft, higher than in previous months.
Also, Rupp continues to struggle against pitches other than the fastball. He whiffs on 37% of his swings against breaking pitches, 42% against off-speed pitches according to Brooks Baseball. When facing off-speed or breaking pitches, Rupp produces little power against any offering on the outside of the plate.
Check out this image from Brooks baseball which clearly shows the ‘Hot’ and ‘Cold’ zones for Rupp. It is a fairly exaggerated graphic, one big league pitchers and coaches are sure to catch on to fairly quickly.
Now that he’s a full-time big leaguer, the clock is ticking for Rupp to find his role in the majors. Is he just another placeholder until the top prospect talent arrives? Can he be the longterm starter behind the dish for at least a few more years to come?
With the talent present in the minors, Rupp’s long-term role on the team isn’t guaranteed. However, if Rupp can show that his June power surge is at least somewhat sustainable, he could find a spot on the team as at least a backup catcher over that long-term.