2016 Phillies Report Card: Cameron Rupp
Back before the 2013 season, Matt Winkelman and I were holding down the proverbial fort at PhuturePhillies.com, and we conceived to go back and forth on a couple players where we had wide splits on our soon-to-be-published organizational rankings. One of those players was Cameron Rupp. My ranking of Rupp was about 15 spots ahead of Matt’s, and my reasoning had been well documented in the comments of the blog the previous year (note: never read the comments). I spelled it out once again:
“In my opinion, he’s good enough and tracking in the right direction to see him having a 3-5 year window of being a just below average/average big league regular at the plate and probably about the same behind it, with back-up roles in the years beyond that. And that kind of player is valuable. He’s no Buster Posey. He’s not going to be anyone’s franchise player, but he’s a good backstop with a good arm, and he’s got at least a fair amount of power, without sacrificing plate discipline.”
Matt’s counter argument was essentially that I was overselling his likely outcome, that Rupp was more a career backup with little “value” beyond utility to the team he happened to play for. Maybe I had been assuming his ceiling was likely. Most times, that’ll burn you in the end, because almost no one reaches their anticipated and absolute ceiling. But in 2016, Cameron Rupp met most of my expectations for his offensive game, at least. He was mostly what I quite charitably thought he would be, and that is pretty nice to see happen every once in a while.
Rupp started 2016 in a bit of a time-sharing situation with Carlos Ruiz, where it seemed like Ruiz would play much less than he ever had, and Rupp would pick up that slack. By midseason, Rupp was playing about two out of every three, and responded with the bat in June and July, where he OPSed around .850 and hit 8 of 16 home runs. His defense was not ranked terribly well for the year, and his base running is about what you’d expect from a guy listed at 6’1” 240lbs, but he was about league average at the plate for the year, with FG showing him at a 99 wRC+. His platoon splits were pretty large, as he mashed lefties in well under 100PAs, but his right vs right OPS was only a hair under .700, so it could be worse.
So where does that leave him going forward? If he continues like this on offense, it’s a solid base from which to build some value each year. But certainly, his defense could use a tune-up if possible. With such a big body, mobility is going to be hard enough to maintain, let alone improve. His arm and working the running game might have some room for improvement – he’s never going to shut down the running game completely, but he’s shown signs that maybe he has more than he’s consistently delivered. I’ve seen anecdotal mentions of his game calling being lackluster, as well, and I can’t begin to judge whether he has room to get better there. Seems like you could always work to get better, but there is a ceiling on everything. In any case, his defense is something to watch for going forward. Claw back a couple runs of value there, and suddenly you’re talking about a 2+ win player.
His outlook for 2017 seems pretty good. Pitchers should have a better book on him, so we’ll see how he responds. Will his K rate continue to climb towards damaging levels? It was 27.2% in 2016, with only a 5.7% bb rate, both of which you like to see move back towards where he was in 2015, 23.7% and 8.0% respectively. Will his power show up again when the weather turns hot? It is hard to argue against a guy who can play a premium position and hit 16 homers in about 420PAs. He’ll be pressured by a good minor league performance from either Jorge Alfaro or Andrew Knapp, but until then, he’s likely to play 4-5 times a week and hopefully, be a trade chip when he’s passed by one of our up and comers. If so, my somewhat ridiculous predictions on his game will have come true and I will claim victory over Matt in the great prospect debate of 2013 – my only victory in any debate over Matt, I believe. Couple of draws in there, but that one victory will be nice.
Oh and I almost forgot, Rupp’s most important thing to watch in 2017, is whether or not he still likes the football team he’s loved his whole life. Because if he does, and is noticeably happy when they win, despite now working in another city, he is bad and we all should hate him, I guess.