Phillies Pheatured Player: Cameron Rupp (Part Two)

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Aug 20, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp (29) hits an RBI single against the St. Louis Cardinals during the first inning at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 20, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp (29) hits an RBI single against the St. Louis Cardinals during the first inning at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /
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Cameron Rupp’s offensive production in 2016 has thrown a wrench in the Phillies’ plans at catcher. The Phillies have top-tier catchers in the minors, but Rupp has been playing at their level.

Prior to the 2015 season, Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs said Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp “offers very little at the plate but is steady receiver with a plus arm and already has big league time.” Still a prospect at the time, many considered Rupp to be a defense-first backup catcher.

Rupp demonstrated his defensive prowess in 2015, catching 38% of opposing baserunners stealing.

He produced a full defensive run above replacement according to Baseball Reference.

While Rupp was solid on defense, he was below average at the plate. Over 81 games, Rupp carried a .233/.301/.374 hitting split. He flashed his raw power with nine home runs, but he was still an offensive liability. Fangraphs placed his offensive value at -8.1 runs.

Through the first two months of 2016, Rupp continued his offensive struggles. Between April and May, Rupp posted a 82 wRC+ while striking out more than 26% of the time.

When the calendar flipped to June, Rupp turned his 2016 around. Rupp smashed the ball in June, hitting five home runs over 75 plate appearances. I made him the subject of another “Phillies Pheature” then, and asked if he could sustain his power stroke for the rest of 2016.

Related Story: Phillies Pheatured Player-Cameron Rupp

Rupp has done just that in July and August, hitting for an .861 OPS in that span. His seven home runs in these two months put his season total at 14, setting a career high for the 27-year old. The only other time he hit 14 home runs was in 2013 between AA Reading and AAA Lehigh Valley.

According to Baseball Reference, Rupp’s 1.8 bWAR is fifth on the team this season and second among batters behind only Odubel Herrera.

Rupp’s offensive success the last three months is far above his projections for the year. ZiPS, Steamer, and Depth Charts all predicted Rupp would be a replacement-level player with negative value at the plate. Instead, Rupp’s near-2.0 WAR this year justifies him being a starter for the team.

Prior to this hot streak, it was easy to view Rupp as a stopgap for Andrew Knapp and Jorge Alfaro. Both are talented prospects, with Alfaro considered a top-100 prospect by many outlets.

Ideally, Alfaro and Knapp would both find their way into the Phillies lineup while Rupp would serve as the backup.

Instead, this three-month span gives the Phillies plenty to contemplate as they head into this offseason. With so many catchers on the team, major-league playing time will be hard to find for all of them.

Considering that Carlos Ruiz is headed to the Dodgers, Rupp is now undoubtedly the Phillies’ starter behind the plate. Rupp’s performance this season justifies his new starting role, and it’s his to lose. In the meantime, general manager Matt Klentak confirmed Knapp and Alfaro will continue to rack up at-bats in the minors.

If Domonic Brown can show us anything, it’s that even the best of prospects can bottom out. Klentak and the rest of the Phillies brass would be wise to remain patient. Rather than hoping Alfaro and/or Knapp pans out after a hypothetical Rupp trade, the Phillies should hold onto all three catchers until they know for sure that they have a logjam. Then, and only then, could the team try shopping around Rupp.

With Cameron Rupp slugging the way he has, the Phillies have a starting-caliber catcher already in the majors. While other talented catchers exists in the minors, the team shouldn’t be hasty to deal away Rupp. Instead, the Phillies should remain patient, giving time for their prospects to develop as well as more major-league experience for Rupp.

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