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The catching situation at the upper levels of the Phillies’ farm system looks drastically different than it did at the start of 2013. If you reflect back to the Spring, Tommy Joseph (who I projected to be an average everyday catcher with the caveat that he’d probably need at least a season and a half of work at Triple-A before he became a big leaguer) started the year in Allentown at the tender age of 21. Concussions have since clouded his future at the position and could force a move to first base where his bat won’t profile every day. Behind Joseph was Sebastian Valle, who had the look of a cost-controlled backup whose stock was down but still had an interesting swing path, some bat speed and average defensive skills. Valle was tasked with repeating Double-A, and somehow saw his tools regress even more than they did in 2012. Finally there was Cameron Rupp who began this year in a timeshare with Valle before grabbing the starting job by the balls and then ascending two levels to make his Major League debut last night. His development is a small but welcome feather in the cap of the organization’s front office that drafted Rupp just over three years ago.
Cameron Rupp is a full-figured young man. Listed at 6’1” and 240lbs, I’ve had people this year tell me that Rupp has actually lost weight to get down to where he is now. The brauny catcher looks like a caricature of some sort of Canadian lumberjack. His size has its pros and cons and I’ll discuss those as we go but I don’t have to tell you that there’s no projection left in this body.
Catchers take me forever to evaluate because the intricacies of the position require multiple viewings to nail down. I like to watch video from the centerfield cameras if I can get it because I think it’s a good way to look at receiving. You can also chart pitch sequences and collect more pop times, stuff that I’m not good enough to do during games while I’m sitting behind the plate and worried a lot of other things. It also helps that the umpire isn’t in the way. Anyway, I wanted to wait until after Rupp made his MLB debut to write him up on here so I could see him put his fingers down in HD.
Rupp’s defense is fine, if unspectacular. His size limits some of his mobility behind the plate, though he’s quite good at blocking balls. His arm strength is plus but he’ll pop about average (right around 2 seconds, flat) because it takes him a while to hoist his ample posterior out of his crouch and actually throw the ball. Rupp’s receiving skills and his ability to frame pitches will be quite interesting to watch as he matures. Right now he presents pitchers with an exceptional target and accepts the ball into his glove with barely a whisper on anything that crosses the plate at or north of the strike zone’s equator. On low strikes, Rupp’s heavy hands and mitt often plummet toward the dirt as he receives the ball. I’ve had scouts say that Rupp might get or lose some calls on the corners simply because he’s so large that some umpires can’t see around him.
Offensively, Rupp has plus raw power thanks to his tremendous strength. I don’t see it actualizing as plus, however, because there’s too much swinging and missing going on here thanks to a pretty nasty arm bar, bat speed that’s just ok and iffy hand-eye coordination compounded by an approach that’s not great. It’s 60 raw but a 40 bat.
What I think the Phillies have here is a nice backup catcher who’ll play passable defense and provide you with some pop. He’ll head to Arizona for Fall League in just under a month, catch in a dozen or so games and is likely your third catcher next year unless the Phillies offseason unfolds in some unforeseen way.