2015 Phillies Report Card: Cameron Rupp
I’ve said this before, but my favorite thing about Cameron Rupp is his name. Not only does it represent him accurately as a man–“Cameron Rupp” evokes a particular kind of brawny and hirsute but nonetheless friendly personage–but it also combines two of college basketball’s most hallowed arenas: Duke’s Cameron Indoor Arena and Kentucky’s Rupp Arena. I look forward to the next wave of Phillies catching prospects, including Pauley Carrier and Allen Palestra.
My second favorite thing about Cameron Rupp is that he’s as big as he is. At 6-foot-2, 260 pounds, he’s the kind of catcher who makes your knees hurt when you think about the amount of energy that’s required someone that big in a crouch a couple hundred times a game. You’d think that Rupp would serve a similar purpose that the side of the school building does for young children playing suey, but unlike the wall, Rupp has to get down to block those pitches, which turns out to be kind of a hit-or-miss proposition. He allowed seven passed balls and 29 wild pitches, which isn’t awful–it’s about what Carlos Ruiz allowed in about the same number of innings–but it’s just sort of generally below average.
Nor is Rupp a great receiver; he was a run and change below expected value, according to Baseball Prospectus’s framing numbers, which is certainly not damning, but neither is it something we can point to and say, “Yes, this is where Cameron Rupp adds value!” Except, maybe it is, because–and this kills me to say, as a lifelong Choochhead–Ruiz had literally the worst framing numbers of any of the 109 catchers on BP’s list. Rupp also controlled the running game well–he threw out 20 of 53 would-be basestealers, which is not only far better than Chooch’s numbers, but comfortably better than the accepted stolen base break-even point.
All of this is to say that I’d call Rupp an average defensive catcher on the whole, and considering that Carlos Ruiz, improbably, has become old, he’s definitely the best defensive catcher the Phillies have.
The good thing about being an average defensive catcher in today’s game is that you don’t have to hit, like, even a little, in order to be a valuable backup. And Rupp can at least hit a little; .233/.301/.374 isn’t going to get you in the top half of the lineup very often, even for the Phillies, but it’s not an automatic out. And when you see Rupp in the box, even if you’re not aware of his .141 ISO, you’re not going to just throw three fastballs straight by him. The other positive thing about Rupp is that he *crushes* lefties. A single-season platoon split for a part-time player is hardly conclusive evidence, but given the choice, I’d rather get excited about a .303/.370/.545 line against lefties than not. And his success against lefties hasn’t artificially inflated his value–the Phillies didn’t really go out of their way to give him more at-bats against left-handed pitching this year.
So what we’ve got in Rupp is an average defensive catcher who’s a below-average hitter with some power and patience who’s very good against left-handed pitching. That doesn’t make him a star, and as a filled-out 27-year-old who came from a major college program, I wouldn’t anticipate Rupp ever becoming something other than what he is. But what he is now is at least a serviceable backup, maybe a starter in a platoon or for a second-division team. I’d absolutely take that, and the Phillies should be happy with what they’ve got.