Phillies Spring Training Position Preview: Catchers

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Jun 29, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Philadelphia Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 29, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Philadelphia Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /
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Internal Options: Andrew Knapp

Andrew Knapp is the catcher in this group of five that I am most interested in following as 2017 gets underway. He has long been thought of as a bat first type of player. While most people seem to believe that Knapp is walking into a backup catcher position, the argument can be made for him to play a different role in 2017.

The Phils originally took the 25-year old in the second round of the 2013 draft. He played in college at University of California, Berkeley. The Phils liked Knapp because they saw an advanced bat that may be able to move quickly through its system. He did just that.

The switch hitter’s ability at the plate has led him to the opportunity he sees in front of him this spring. His best season was split between Clearwater and Double-A Reading in 2015 (.308/.385/.491 with 13 homers and 84 RBI). Last year’s promotion to Lehigh Valley was met with some challenges, but Knapp was able to overcome and be a steady bat (.266/.330/.390).

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Mar 7, 2016; Bradenton, FL, USA; Philadelphia Phillies catcher Andrew Knapp (80) bats during the seventh inning of a spring training baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at McKechnie Field. The Phillies won 1-0. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports /

Knapp’s best chance to play at the big league level is through his bat. The 107 strikeouts (24% of his plate appearances) have to be cut down if he wants to find consistent playing time. He has a strong gap stroke that will not lead to much power output (max 12-15 homers), but should bring a ton of doubles.

His defense behind the plate, albeit improved, leaves something to be desired. While he has played some first base, he is not skilled enough at the position to change completely. However, it does add to his flexibility as a professional player, which could lead to quite a unique spot for the soon to be rookie.

The Phillies have a ton of positional flexibility on their roster. With the flexibility of Howie Kendrick and Andres Blanco, and five outfielders, the Phils could very well carry three catchers. Knapp, who has the ability to hit both righties and lefties equally well, could catch a few times a month, play first base against a tough righty every once in awhile, but mainly focus on the idea of pinch hitting in major spots.

While it seems like an odd spot to take on a big league roster, the Phils could turn Knapp into the next era’s Greg Dobbs/Matt Stairs role. Find him spotted playing time, but use him to mainly hit.

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