The Phillies drafted Andrew Knapp in the second round of the 2013 First Year Player Draft after playing three years at the University of California. He played in the minor league system for four years and has a Paul Owens Award (best position player in the system) under his belt from 2015, when he hit .360 with 11 home runs and 56 RBI for double-A Reading.
Knapp hit .266 for triple A Lehigh Valley last season and had to stave off a veteran catcher in Ryan Hanigan this spring to earn backup catching duties. He did that, and with Cameron Rupp taking a nosedive this season with a .205 average and a .305 on-base mark, Knapp has been getting more looks – almost in a dead heat of playing time with Rupp.
There’s a lot to like about Knapp’s game. First, he’s a switch-hitter, which is an advantage itself. It’s a similar philosophy with having left-handers in the bullpen: you can never have enough. Knapp has also proven he can hit in the big leagues. A .261 batting average and a .763 OPS is nothing to sneeze at for a rookie.
It’s Knapp’s approach at the plate that’s driving his numbers. He has 19 walks in 37 games, good for a 14.5 percent walk rate (the league average is 8.5 percent). Knapp is third on the Phillies in OBP (.363) behind Daniel Nava and Howie Kendrick. Because the rookie takes a lot of walks, he often runs deep counts. He sees an average of 4.12 pitches per at bat, which is third on the team behind Rupp (coincidentally) and Ty Kelly. And when the pitcher is ahead in the count, Knapp is hitting a solid .263.
The catcher also isn’t afraid to take the ball the other way. For his first major league hit, he doubled off Nationals’ all-star Stephen Strasburg on a sweet stroke down the left-field line on a tough low and outside pitch. Knapp’s second career double came off Noah Syndergaard – another (ground rule) double down the left-field line. He’s hitting .417 to the opposite field.
The flaws in Knapp’s game come in the clutch and behind the plate. The 25-year-old is hitting just .188 with runners in scoring position. Behind the plate, Knapp’s pitchers have a 5.06 ERA. Rupp’s is lower at 4.46.
Overall, Knapp is good offense-first backup major league catcher, and he should only get better as he gets more experience, if that’s where the Phils want to keep him (he has taken a couple snaps at first base). The California native is competent enough to even take over the rest of this year at catcher, if need be, and split time with Jorge Alfaro next year, to help get his feet wet. And even if the Phils would prefer pairing Alfaro with a veteran backstop, Knapp could potentially slide into a bench role with first base possibility.
Knapp’s offensive capability gives him an opportunity to stick. There’s definitely a place for Andrew Knapp as a Phillie in 2018.