Philadelphia Phillies: Cameron Rupp Set To Become Mentor

Philadelphia Phillies’ catcher Cameron Rupp’s current performance could allow him serve as a mentor to prospects Andrew Knapp and Jorge Alfaro in future seasons.

Philadelphia Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp was never hyped as one of the organization’s top prospects, because he wasn’t. The soon-to-be 28-year-old (September 28) still isn’t projected as the team’s long-term starting catcher. But, Rupp’s solid offensive development makes it plausible that he could be retained to mentor Andrew Knapp, Jorge Alfaro, or both, in coming seasons.

Rupp became the starting receiver last year for three related reasons, Carlos Ruiz could no longer play on a regular basis, no minor league catcher was ready to be promoted to the major leagues, and the Phillies’ rebuild allowed various perceived placeholders to work in the show. His notable offensive increase this season is somewhat neutralized by his seeming lack of progress in calling games and framing pitches. However, Rupp’s ability to grow in these areas shouldn’t be discounted based on past success.

Manager Pete Mackanin began to write Rupp’s name in the lineup more often last season as it became apparent that Ruiz would no longer be able to maintain his regular status. By mid-summer 2015, Rupp advanced from platoon status to the starting the majority of Phillies’ games behind the plate. He finished the season at the 81 appearance mark, which was his highest game total since debuting in the majors in 2013.

The organization has believed in Rupp’s potential since Major League Baseball’s amateur draft was held in June 2007. The Phillies selected the then-high school player in the forty-third round that year, but the Texas native didn’t accept the offer and opted to attend the University of Texas instead. However, Philadelphia’s persistence made an impression on the football-framed receiver, as he agreed to the team’s second contract offer, which came after he was selected in the third round of the June 2010 draft.

Currently, there are only two National League catchers who have hit more home runs than Rupp (13) this season. Through games of August 6, Wilson Ramos (Washington Nationals) had 17 home runs and Yasmani Grandal (Los Angeles Dodgers) had 16 home runs. Rupp’s 13 taters tied him with Jonathan Lucroy, who was recently traded by the Milwaukee Brewers to the Texas Rangers. However, two of those catchers have significantly more at bats than Rupp (267). Ramos stands at 338 at bats, while Lucroy hit 13 home runs in 338 at bats with the Brewers prior to being traded to the Rangers on August 1. Grandal had 251 at bats. Rupp’s .818 OPS ranked fourth among starting NL catchers, trailing only Ramos (.932), the since-traded Lucroy (.841), and San Francisco Giants’ Buster Posey (.823, 12 home runs, 361 at bats).

‘Chooch’, who has three home runs and a .701 OPS through 141 at bats this season, is playing in the final year of his contract. His pending departure likely means that Rupp will be the only veteran catcher on the 25-man roster heading into next season.

Unless he’s unexpectedly traded, it seems likely that the Phillies will tap Rupp to mentor Triple-A prospect Andrew Knapp, who’s the number 12 ranked prospect in the farm system. Double-A prospect Jorge Alfaro, Philadelphia’s number 4 ranked prospect, obtained from the Rangers in last summer’s Cole Hamel’s mega-deal, is projected to play in Lehigh Valley in 2017. Alfaro is a member of the Phillies’ 40-man roster, and like Knapp, could be called up in September.