Remembering Cameron Rupp
In a move clearly intended to dominate headlines, the Phillies moved right-handed pitcher Drew Hutchison to their 40-man roster, likely guaranteeing him a spot in the Opening Day bullpen. To make room, catcher Cameron Rupp was designated for assignment, ending his tenure as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies.
Rupp, in a way, never stood a chance. That sentiment holds true no matter what context you look at it in, be it filling Chooch’s shoes in the eyes of the fanbase, trying to hold off two far-sexier prospects in Jorge Alfaro & Andrew Knapp, or trying to hit a pitcher who throws a decent fastball.
Originally drafted by the Phillies in the 3rd round out of the University of Texas, Rupp was never considered much of a prospect. Touted as a defense-first catcher who could hit enough to hold a backup job, Rupp failed to crack most top-prospect lists, constantly being overshadowed by the likes of Sebastian Valle, Gabriel Lino, and Deivi Grullon. By the time catchers like Knapp and Alfaro were added to the system, he could kiss his childhood dream of being in the Philadelphia Phillies top-30 prospect list goodbye.
And yet, he did the unexpected. He did what Valle, Lino, and Grullon did not; he kept climbing in the Phillies’ system, and he made his major-league debut in 2013. It was during this time that he tricked myself and others into thinking that maybe, just maybe, he could be more than a starter. In 4 games he batted .308 and somehow managed to generate 0.1 WAR in just 14 plate appearances. Our hero had come.
And then, disaster struck when Rupp was asked to play more than 4 MLB games in one year; he batted .183 in 18 games during the 2014 season, and, in a way that makes me wonder if Fate was trying to foreworn us, struck out 20 times in 64 PAs (a rate of 31.3%). He managed to actually be worse in 59 games with the AAA Ironpigs, hitting .165 and striking out at an even higher rate (34.7%). Truly, this was our darkest hour of the 2014 Phillies season.
It got a little better in 2015. He popped his first MLB home run off of C.C. Sabathia, a fact that the MLB should consider and retroactively force the lefty Yankees veteran to retire in shame. 2015 would also mark the first season that Rupp spent the whole year with the big-league club. Perhaps, we’d found a piece. After all, he did usurp fan-favorite Erik Kratz as Carlos Ruiz’s backup.
And then, in 2016, the magical happened: Cameron Rupp won a Starting Catcher job. Flashing power that was unprecedented during any part of his professional career, he established himself as a viable semi-starting option on a semi-professional team. It was a race to the end to see which number would be higher; Phillies wins, or Cameron Rupp extra-base hits. (Phils took it by an edge of 62-43)
The 2017 season was wretched. Rupp, handed a starting job on an MLB clearly in the waning stages of a rebuild, forgot how to baseball. He struck out an astonishing 34.4% of the time (a number that would’ve had him 13% ahead of the next-closest batter, if he had qualified) and accumulated a 1.0 WAR, 0.2 behind walking-husk Daniel Nava and 0.1 ahead of Jorge Alfaro, who appeared in 51 fewer games.
It will be impossible to replace Rupp, because I philosophically don’t believe that you can replace nothing with something. It’s one of those dividing-by-zero things.
All jokes aside, Cameron Rupp was a soldier on some god-awful Phillies teams, and there’s a certain level of admiration owed to a guy who came to the ballpark every day knowing that even if he made some positive contribution, it would be rendered meaningless by the rest of his team’s stink.
Best of luck to you in the future, Cameron.