2014 Phillies Report Card: Cameron Rupp
Cameron Rupp‘s big league experience in 2014 consisted of about half-time PAs from the middle of June through the middle of July, when both Carlos Ruiz and Wil Nieves were out injured at different points, and just one appearance in September, despite Chooch admitting mid-way through the month that he’d been suffering from a year-long shoulder injury. Fangraphs makes Rupp even on WAR for the year, as he added some defensive value to a poor offensive showing. In all, I’d call that a disappointing but tolerable second cup of coffee, which I would imagine is not uncommon in the coffee world, because it gets cold or bitter or something. IDK, I drink iced tea. Either way, better to spend a little time profiling the player than try to dive into 64 big league PAs, in my opinion. So here goes that.
I referenced this in my first report card post, and those who followed my work on PhuturePhillies.com know this: I like Cameron Rupp more than a person should like a guy of his skill set. I have for a while. The argument grew from “Hey, he has the tools to be a decent player, maybe even a big league regular for a couple years in his prime,” in the 2011-2012 off-season, to “Look, he’s starting to show some of those tools at the plate, and an ability to improve with instruction,” the next off-season.
After 2012, and in defense of his advanced age for A+ Clearwater (he was 23), I liked to mention that we can’t blame the guy for being blocked by higher-ceiling guys in Sebastian Valle and then, post-trade deadline, Tommy Joseph. Who knows if Rupp was actually ready to compete at AA in the second half of 2012, but he was good at the plate by then and I felt mildly vindicated. It was good for him, too, don’t get me wrong. But mostly me.
By 2013, Rupp was split time between AA and AAA. He took the lion’s share of playing time at AAA for a couple months and wound up netting himself a September call-up to the bigs, a spectacular hustling-and-tripping-over-the-first-base-bag of a first big league hit, and an Arizona Fall League invite. He also ending the season with his flawless streak of consecutive pro assignments above 100 wRC+ intact. His Ks spiked up and his walks fell off, so some red flags, but for the moment, everything was coming together for me…I mean him. For him.
First big league hit (RIP Wheels):
Also there was this amazing clip from Reading that @Mitch_Rupert pointed out on Twitter a while back (go to 0:25). They don’t make collisions like this in the big leagues anymore, and that spike would get him Brian McCanned, if Rupp didn’t share certain characteristics with McCann, (I mean they’re both catchers, of course. Why, what did you think I meant?):
2014 started out fine, and Rupp hit four homers in his first four games at AAA, leading me to refer to him at least once as “Babe Rupp”, though mostly as a troll on the people who sincerely called Darin Ruf “Babe Ruf” two summers earlier for hitting like 85 home runs in hitter-friendly Reading. However, part of me was legitimately excited. For about eight more days. Then came the badness. Rupp went down with an oblique injury April 14 and was out for a month. Even the story there is endearing in a way – he wanted to stay in the game despite having trouble breathing. That’s some blue collar shit right there.
Upon his return to AAA, he suffered from weak contact, hitting line drives on just 18% of his balls in play, leading to a very low BABIP of .230. His AAA season ended with just six homers in about 220 PAs. It’s clear his power or timing or both were sapped from the time off or the injury itself. He managed to walk around 10% again at AAA in 2014, but his high K rate went to a horrid 34.7%, after being a career high 28.4% at the same level in 2013. That’s trouble. But if he’s going to add value on the defensive side, his offense probably doesn’t have to do much more than rebound into the neighborhood of his 2013 for him to be a nice little 1 WAR type guy. Some of this is wish-casting at this point. He’s going to have to be given the chance to perform in the bigs for any of this to matter.
A couple days ago, David Murphy wrote about the Phils’ most rational path for the off-season. He mentioned moving Carlos Ruiz and turning over the reins to Rupp. With Rupp behind the plate, I think the pitching staff would be in pretty good hands, and the running game would be managed at least adequately. In all, if they decide to move Ruiz, I would hope they at least try Rupp out as the starter in the spring, with a solid veteran backup who won’t embarrass you if he’s pressed into everyday service, (like maybe bring back Wil Nieves, warts and all).
Alright, let me put a grade on it – the season on the whole was pretty lackluster. I was going to call it a D+, but you all may recall from my Dom Brown write-up that I love when guys piss off the most over-the-top-awful Eagles fans. Rupp has a habit of doing just that, and proudly, so kudos for that.
And a note to Grady Sizemore – Do something to rile up the dark corners of Eagleville before I write you up in the next couple days. You’ll be wanting that extra third of a letter grade.