Phillies: Andrew Knapp to start 2018 in the minors?

MIAMI, FL - JULY 19: Andrew Knapp
MIAMI, FL - JULY 19: Andrew Knapp /
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How will the Phillies handle their catcher situation this season and beyond?

Sometimes having too many players at one position is a good problem to have, especially for a young team trying to find their identity. For the Phillies one of their biggest logjams is the backstop role.

Between Cameron Rupp, Jorge Alfaro, and Andrew Knapp the Phillies backstops have 1,462 plate appearances, 77% of which come from Rupp. Alfaro and Knapp have the potential to be starting catchers in the majors, but Alfaro’s ceiling is exponentially higher.

Knapp showed he belongs in the majors leagues last year with a .257 batting average in 56 games. It’s not the most impressive stat line, but for a rebuilding team, it’ll do.

Under no scenario can the Phillies afford to keep three catchers on their 25-man roster, meaning either Rupp, Knapp, or Alfaro will not be on the team on Opening Day.

Many factors will go into who makes the 25-man roster, and performance from last season will not be the biggest decider. Much of the decision will go into remaining minor league options the Phillies have on each player.

Here are the specifics of player options and how the team must control them:

"Players on a 40-man roster are given three Minor League “options.” An option allows that player to be sent to the Minor Leagues (“optioned”) without first being subjected to waivers. When a player is optioned to the Minors for a span of more than 20 days, he loses an option."

All three of Alfaro’s minor league options have been used, meaning the Phillies would have to place him on waivers to send him to Lehigh Valley for anything but a rehab assignment. That will never happen considering Alfaro’s potential and his importance to the club going forward.

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Both Rupp and Knapp have options remaining entering the 2018 season. At 29-years-old Rupp has two options remaining, while Knapp still has all three.

You can write Alfaro’s name in ink on the Opening Day roster with his options out and his success last year in limited opportunities. It’ll be a battle in Spring Training between Rupp and Knapp, who worked as the major league catchers for a majority of last season.

Considering Rupp’s experience both as a major league player and with this pitching staff he’s likely to get the upper-hand on Knapp. Rupp carries little to no trade value, especially with Jonathan Lucroy, Carlos Ruiz, A.J. Ellis, Geovany Soto, and Chris Stewart remaining on the free agent market.

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From a long-term view, it wouldn’t hurt Knapp to get work down in Lehigh Valley despite having over 200 major league at-bats. He’s gained experience with many of the pitchers who will start the in Triple-A, including Zach Eflin and Jake Thompson, and that will help both Knapp and the starting rotation.

Barring any injury or unforeseen move, expect Alfaro to be the Opening Day catcher with Rupp on the bench.

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