August Highlights the Phillies Catching Depth

Going into the draft this spring, there was a cry for the Phillies to draft a catcher because the team didn’t have an heir for Carlos Ruiz.  Throwing aside that catchers develop too slow to help that quickly, there was public concern over the state of the Phillies’ catching depth.  Right now after some crazy Augusts and a big trade of a franchise lefty, catcher might be the deepest position in the organization.  It makes the most sense to go top down, so let’s start in the majors.

MLB:

Carlos Ruiz: 41 AB .195/.250/.293
Cameron Rupp: 58 AB .310/.379/.707

Ruiz is pretty much done and Erik Kratz (stats below with AAA) is temporary, so let’s look at Cameron Rupp who suddenly found a bat.  Rupp always had plus raw power (he hit 14 HRs in 94 games in 2013), but he couldn’t make enough contact to make it come out in games.  In August, Rupp finally tapped into some of that power with 7 home runs, some of them blasts the opposite way.  Now Rupp is still bad against RHPs, is a bad pitch framer, and ok receiver.  He is unlikely to be a major league starter for a good team, but he has shown he can be a major leaguer, and a cheap competent backup provides some stability going forward.

AAA:

Logan Moore: 52 AB .327/.386/.442
Erik Kratz: 46 AB .348/.500/.674
Gabriel Lino: 44 AB .159/.159/.205

AAA is the “barren” spot right now in the organization.  Lino (who struggled in August) has more upside than Moore due to his age and physicality, but Moore is a more polished defender and hitter.  Both are likely backups if they make the majors but they aren’t useless.

AA:

Andrew Knapp: 99 AB .404/.469/.758
Jorge Alfaro: 4 AB .500/.667/.750 (GCL Rehab)
Rene Garcia: 34 AB .382/.371/.441

Alfaro might be the best catching prospect still in the minors, but is still working back from injury.  He has a lot of polishing left to do, but he has the power to hit 20+ HRs a year, the speed to steal bases, and the athleticism to be an average receiver with a rocket arm.  That isn’t touching on the catcher that lit up AA in August.  Knapp is a hitter over a catcher, but he can really hit.  Knapp has the polish that Alfaro lacks, and we aren’t far from a future where Knapp can be a plus hitter with fringe average power (roughly .280 with 12-15 home runs a year).  The glove needs work and is never going to be an asset, but it can be playable.  He is a bat behind the plate and those are not really common.  Garcia is a solid org catcher.

Hi-A:

Chace Numata: 60 AB .217/.250/.250
Willians Astudillo: 62 AB .435/.471/.468

Clearwater is more like AAA than the other levels.  Numata has a profile we will see a lot in the low minors for the Phillies, a former infielder (in this case SS), switch hitter, with a cannon of an arm.  August was Numata’s worse month and at his best he looks like a defensive centric backup with some feel to hit.  Speaking of feel to hit, that is all Astudillo does (he didn’t strike out in August).  He is not a great fielder at catcher, but the Phillies are trying to make it work.  He isn’t really a prospect, but his August lines up with anyone in the org.

Low-A:

Deivi Grullon: 83 AB .301/.370/.470
Jose Mayorga: 23 AB .174/.240/.174
Joel Fisher: 47 AB .191/.191/.362

Lakewood is all about Deivi Grullon.  His title of best catcher in org is gone, but he is still the best defender in the org.  He has an 80 grade arm and plus or better defense behind the plate, it is a truly elite package behind the plate.  In August his bat came to life, and showed that he might not be entirely one dimensional, even if he is just a poor hitter, he could be an extremely valuable player.  Grullon won’t turn 20 until next February, and he is going to need time, but he has a real chance to be a major leaguer.

Short Season:

Austin Bossart: 67 AB .328/.366/.403
Gregori Rivero: 26 AB .154/.154/.269 (On DL)
Jesus Posso: 79 AB .228/.295/.405

Posso probably isn’t long for the catching gear because he is behind the other catchers in the system defensively, but he can hit (though there are some concerns about how well he will hit in the upper levels).  Rivero drew a lot of positive review coming into the midseason rankings, he is another switch hitting converted middle infielder, though he has a potential above average glove behind the plate.  He has some potential hit projection and there is some power in his bat too.  Like Grullon he is really young (turns 20 next May) and he doesn’t have huge upside, but he has major league upside.  There was universal praise when the Phillies took Bossart (a senior out of UPenn) in the draft and so far the returns have been good.  It isn’t a starting profile, but he has shown the ability to hit and play defense (throwing out 4 runners in a game on September 2).  Bossart should move through the system quickly.

GCL:

Edgar Cabral: 53 AB .302/.362/.396
Rodolfo Duran: 36 AB .167/.189/.222

If I asked you who the Phillies 11th round pick was, many of you would not be quick on the recall, but with that pick they took a Junior College catcher.  Cabral is solidly built (5’11” 190lb) and is fairly young (turns 20 in September), and he was very good in the GCL.  He should some athleticism, strength, and defensive abilities on his way to hitting .281/.355/.406 with 8 walks and 6 strikeouts on the season.  It will be interesting to see how quick the Phillies move him, but they may have found a hidden gem in a guy who was off the map.  The Phillies love Duran, who struggled down the stretch.  But then again what are you really expecting from a 5’9″ 17 year old playing in his first full year.  There is some defensive abilities here, including a plus arm.  But it speaks volumes that the Phillies kept him stateside all year, he is one to really watch going forward.

Others:

Lenin Rodriguez
Rafael Marchan

Lenin Rodriguez lead the VSL Phillies in HRs (4) while walking (22) more than striking out (13).  The book on him was that he was an offensive oriented catcher and he is living up to that billing.  His defense needs some work, but he should be back stateside for Instructs and it will be interesting to see how his bat progresses.  Marchan is the small money signing alongside Jhailyn Ortiz this July.  He is another converted middle infielder who switch hits (I would told you there would be a theme).  The consensus before he signed was that he good contact abilities but he was still raw behind the plate.

Overall the sheer number of interesting catchers in the Phillies’ system is a testament to them acquiring up the middle talent in trades, the draft, and internationally.  There are 3 guys in the system who could be major league regulars (Alfaro, Knapp, Grullon) and a bunch of guys who could make it to the majors some day.  It is arguably the deepest position in the system (shortstop and center field would put up good fights) and it should help the big league club in the short and long term.

Photo by Baseball Betsy

Author: Matt Winkelman

Matt Winkelman
Matt is originally from Mt. Holly, NJ, but after a 4 year side track to Cleveland for college he now resides in Madison, WI. His work has appeared on Phuture Phillies, The Good Phight, and TheDynastyGuru.

5 comments

  1. Romus

    Overlooked mentioning Rupp’s defensive strength…his arm.

  2. Romus

    What concerns me about Alfaro….with that arm…is the low 28% base stealing caught stat for 2014…..and the high pass ball total 20plus in only 90 games.
    Then there is the added weight in the past two years that the Rangers were concerned with.
    he seems to have a to similar of a defensive grading to present Yank Gary Sanchez and former Yank Jesus Montero. All considered exceptional bats before glove.

  3. An interesting article, but one month of performance data is too small sample size to conclude much of anything.

  4. Matt

    It’s crazy how deep this position is after how barren it seemed just a year ago. Grullon and Knapp were the only guys who were really worth paying attention to, and Grullon was far off and Knapp seemed as if he might be a bust. Now you have to feel good about our chances of coming out of this with at least a solid catcher worthy of starting on a contender.

  5. Lenin Rodriguez not on prelim FIL list. Something to be concerned about?