The Future is Unwritten: Andrew Knapp
The Phillies 2013 draft has acclaimed by many (including yours truly) as one rich with upside laden talent. JP Crawford, Cord Sandberg and Jan Hernandez are all dripping with athleticism and the potential for an explosive Major League tool or two if the Phillies player development squad can turn the dreams of all that raw talent into a reality. Lost among the forest of those teenage redwood saplings is Andrew Knapp, Philadelphia’s second round pick in that draft. The Cal (Berkley) catcher is already 22 years old, the cement on the body is mostly dry and there really isn’t really a chance for a plus tool here. Despite that, there is an interesting combination of athleticism and skills that could make Knapp an everyday catcher if things break right.
The first thing I want to talk about regarding Knapp is his bat. Knapp is a switch hitter, which means we have two swings which need evaluating, each on their own. The swing from the left side (which I’ve seen more of) has some promise but is not without its issues. Usually, Knapp shows terrific balance and weight transfer in his lower half all the way through the swing. He will sometimes, however, roll his front foot over at the ankle, sending rotational energy down into the ground instead of through the body and into the ball. He’s gotten better at avoiding this power-sapping flub. It was occurring much more frequently in college but it was still on display once in a while at Williamsport, especially when Knapp would open his hips early to try to get to a pitch on the inner half. His hands from the left side are pretty quick, I like the bat speed, but the bat path can be flat and contact oriented at times. Again, this is something that plagued Knapp more in college than it did when I saw him in Williamsport. Knapp has excellent control of the barrel and can adjust his hand location to direct the bat head toward pitches in various locations which creates hard contact to all fields. Knapp does not track the baseball well from this side.
The right-handed swing is a little different and I’m not quite as enthralled with it as I am with the left. There’s less of a stride here and the weight comes forward a little too early for me leaving him out in front of breaking balls. Knapp isn’t quite as deft with his hands from the right side, either.
A very important aspect of Knapp’s development will be polishing these little issues. His athleticism is evident, and players like that are more likely to be successful in making mechanical changes than their unathletic peers who have less control over their bodies. It might take a while for Knapp to clean up this stuff but the essential bodily gifts are present to give him a chance to do it. I’ve got a present 35 on the bat with a chance for him to become an average hitter in the future. There’s some power here as well, though right now it comes in the form of doubles. I think there’s a possibility for more if the body fills out the right way and Knapp’s swing becomes more thump-conducive. I’ve got a present 40 on it, 45 future.
As we move on to the defense, I regret to inform you that I have not seen Knapp catch. Elbow trouble prevented him from catching during his pro debut and Tommy John surgery will keep him out until sometime in June. Pre-draft reports on Knapp’s defensive prowess were mixed. Generally, his receiving is considered to be poor and heavy handed while his arm strength and athleticism behind the plate have been praised. I’ve only got one college pop time on Knapp and it was a below average 2.20, though he had to reach far away from his body to catch the pitch and it added to his time. I’d scrap that time if I had anything else to go off of, but I don’t.
Again, Knapp seems to have the requisite athleticism to fix his issues (though the receiving issues might be harder to mend than throwing mechanics and blocking techniques) but the Phillies may have to be patient. I expect Knapp to be a slow mover. He has a tall developmental mountain to climb, all catchers do, and his trek is made lengthier by his injury. Some scouts think he might end up in right field which, unless his bat develops to unforeseen heights, would submarine his value. My hope is that things come along enough for Knapp that he finished 2014 in Clearwater and gives himself a chance to maybe start at Double-A in 2015, when he’ll be 23 years old. If he can catch, I think he has a chance to be an average everyday player.