► Reports and Scouting:
Role: Major League Regular
Risk: Medium – Knapp has improved his defense enough that it should be playable, but it is not good enough to make up for his bat not hitting its ceiling. Knapp’s track record of hitting is still fairly short, and he has shown some weaknesses, especially against left handed pitching.
Summary: Andrew Knapp went from being the top college catcher in the 2013 draft into relative obscurity fairly quickly when he lost much of his second year to Tommy John surgery. He then proceeded to be solid with the bat in low-A while struggling behind the plate. The first indication that a breakout may have been coming happened this spring, when Knapp was the top hitter in minor league camp for the Phillies. Knapp then hit ok in Clearwater before exploding in Reading, posting one of the greatest minor league months ever, hittingt .404/.469/.758 in August. It turns out that in Clearwater the Phillies had him working exclusively on catching, and while he was still rough at times behind the plate, he was much improved on his 2014 performance. It wasn’t just the ability to focus on hitting that propelled Knapp’s second half success, however. He suddenly became a true switch hitter without giant platoon splits, here is his line against LHPs over his career:
AB 2B HR BB K AVG OBP SLG Williamsport 56 5 0 4 16 .214 .286 .304 Lakewood 92 6 0 4 15 .255 .327 .319 Clearwater 88 4 1 9 17 .216 .296 .295 Reading 58 7 2 9 9 .431 .507 .655
Now the improvements against lefties is obviously small sample size and BABIP fueled, but by making it an asset, Knapp improved his overall results dramatically. He did regress against left handed pitchers in the Arizona Fall League in a very small sample, so it is worth watching in the future. Knapp’s swing from both sides is relatively simple, with a feel for solid line drive contact. Knapp has also shown a good approach and solid pitch recognition, and while he will miss some, he will also work deep counts for a good share of walks. Reading has a tendency to inflate offensive numbers, and in the case of Knapp, it greatly increased his power numbers. At home Knapp hit 7 doubles and 8 home runs, and in a similar number of road games he hit 14 doubles and 3 home runs. The road numbers match the scouting report better, as Knapp is more likely to hit balls to the gaps than out of the park. Long term, Knapp is probably going to be more of a 10-15 home run a year player. Behind the plate, Knapp has improved his defense to passable. He is athletic and is starting to get a feel for framing pitches. However, he still struggles to block balls in the dirt and passed balls will likely always be a problem. His arm is back to having above average strength now 2 years removed from surgery, but he will need to shorten his transfer and release to not be a liability in the running game. Knapp getting to average defense is probably the ceiling here, but just sticking at the position gives him value. Knapp’s future is as an offensive catcher with a good batting average, solid on base abilities, and some power. If he can hit his ceiling offensively, he should be a solid major league contributor. If he can’t catch, he probably will go to left field or first base, which will be a tough bar for his bat to reach, so there is a lot riding on him continuing to improve on defense. Despite his detours on the way, he is really not too far from the major leagues and well on pace for a second round pick in the 2013 draft.
2016 Outlook: Knapp won’t need a 40 man spot until after the year, and Jorge Alfaro needs more AA time, so a trip to AAA seems in order. If Knapp continues to hit like he did in AA, he will force the Phillies to make a decision about Rupp or Ruiz in the middle of the season. Otherwise by late summer or September, Knapp should get his shot to be the everyday major league catcher.
What Happened: Andrew Knapp has had a weird season. He started by struggling in Clearwater, improving there as the year went on, before being promoted to Reading and just hitting constantly. He doesn’t have much beyond doubles power (from either side), but in Reading he has seemed to learn how to hit from both sides of the plate. The bat isn’t enough to play elsewhere, but it is plenty enough for a catcher. The problem is that his defense has been unimpressive up to this point. He is a rough receiver and doesn’t frame well. The biggest worry is that his arm was only above average when he was drafted, then he had Tommy John surgery, and it might only be fringe average to average now. He has the ability to be an average regular, but he is far from a lock to stay behind the plate.
What Next: It is hard to say that Knapp needs to prove he can hit given what he is doing in AA right now, but the defense is another story. His arm is unlikely to get much better, but he can improve his transfers and reactions. He is athletic enough that receiving should be able to come with time, but he needs a lot of time behind the plate to just get better at it.
Role: Solid Regular
Risk: High – Knapp will need to prove he can stick behind the plate, and he still has a lot of work to do since returning in early 2014 from Tommy John surgery.
Summary: It was a fairly static year for Knapp in 2014 as he returned slowly from Tommy John surgery, first just hitting and playing DH, and then by slowly easing into catching. He got off to a very slow start with the bat in Clearwater before he was demoted to Lakewood. He didn’t get off to a great start in Lakewood, but after the South Atlantic All-Star Game (62 games) he hit .297/.359/.462 for the Blueclaws. He was much better as a left handed batter (.309/.371/.487) than a right handed one (.250/.317/.337), which is consistent with his results in 2013. Either way, the bat is more than enough behind the plate, where the hit tool could play close to average with room to be a little better. The power, almost entirely from the left handed side, is in the below average range, and there will be more doubles to the gaps than large home run numbers. The question is whether he can do enough defensively to stick at catcher. Behind the plate, the arm has not returned all the way yet, but the Phillies think it will come all the way back to above average. Knapp’s footwork isn’t great, and he still is raw on his receiving. This keeps him from being a lock to stay behind the plate, and if he has to return to the outfield it is hard to see his bat putting up numbers to be more than a 4th/5th outfielder. Despite the fact that Knapp will be 23 on opening day, the Phillies are content to take their time with him to let him gain the skills he needs behind the plate. If it all works out, Knapp could be an offensive catcher with average defensive skills behind the plate, and that would be well worth the wait.
16. Andrew Knapp – Knapp was the Phillies second round pick in 2013 and he slides a bit as he returns from Tommy John surgery. He struggled in high-A, but he he has been much better in Lakewood as he has gotten more game action. Knapp will move slower than most college bats, but he still profiles as a major league regular behind the plate. (Preseason #13)
- Phillies Minor Thoughts
- Top 100 Split Decisions: Knapp vs. Murphy vs. Stephenson – Baseball America
- In AFL, Knapp Looks To Build On Strong Season– Josh Norris (Baseball America)
#4 Prospect in Phillies System – Baseball America
#9 Prospect in Phillies System – Baseball Prospectus
#16 Prospect in Philles System – ESPN
#9 Prospect in Phillies System – MLB Pipeline
#9 Prospect in Phillies System – Phillies Minor Thoughts
#16 Prospect in Phillies System – Fangraphs
#18 Prospect in Phillies System – Baseball America
#23 Prospect in Phillies System – Phillies Minor Thoughts
#24 Prospect in Phillies System – Baseball America
#13 Prospect in Phillies System – Phillies Minor Thoughts