As the 2010s wind down, PhilliesNation.com will go position by position in determining the Philadelphia Phillies All-Decade Team.
The Phillies had five different Opening Day catchers in the 2010s. Only the outfield saw more turnover to begin the season.
Carlos Ruiz received the nod six out of the ten seasons, while Erik Kratz, Cameron Rupp and Andrew Knapp all get to say they were an Opening Day starter on a major league baseball team. J.T. Realmuto, who was acquired in a trade with the Miami Marlins in February of 2019, manned the plate to open the season in 2019. If all goes well for the Phillies and Realmuto, he should be the Opening Day starter for at least the next half decade and a lock for the 2020s All-Decade team.
Ruiz was the mainstay behind the plate for the Phillies this decade. Coming into the 2010s, Ruiz, who is affectionately known as “Chooch,” was already one of the most beloved Phillies players of all-time after playing a pivotal role during the championship runs in 2008 and 2009. He was tasked with catching an ace four out every five days in 2011 and did a heck of a job at handling heightened expectations and managing personalities. The late Roy Halladay perfectly summed up how good Chooch was at handling “the four aces.” Doc even called Chooch “the best catcher I’ve ever thrown to.” If you don’t want your heart to break all over again, I’d advise you to skip over the next quote.
“Chooch was the little engine that could for a team loaded with big names, but no player was more valuable to the team as a whole than Carlos! He was so humble and grateful, you couldn’t help but just want to do anything for him including win! He flawlessly handled one of the greatest pitching staffs ever assembled and was just as important offensively, as well. It was nothing short of miraculous that he could handle so many different personalities and approaches on a day-to-day basis the way that he did. He was the best catcher I’ve ever thrown to and, in my opinion, the best catcher in baseball in the years I was with him.
It’s going to be sad to see him without a Phillies uniform on and not seeing him sitting in his chair in the clubhouse with a smile. And just the way the fans treated Chase [Utley] last week, Chooch is also deserving of that hero’s welcome. They are my two favorite players of all-time as well as favorite teammates. I was fortunate to have both of them in the clubhouse. I want to wish good luck to Carlos. Maybe one day when we’re old and gray we can come back to Philly!”Credit: NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Jim Salisbury
Ruiz also held his own offensively. He slashed .266/.352/.393 with 68 home runs and 401 RBIs in 11 seasons with the Phillies. During his career season in 2012, Ruiz had an OPS of .935 and earned his first and only All-Star nod. He was suspended for the first 25 games of the 2013 season after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance.
The Phillies eventually resigned Ruiz to a three-year, 26 million dollar contract later that offseason. He was okay in 2013, much better in 2014 and struggled for much of 2015. Just like his longtime teammates Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins, Chooch was eventually traded to the Dodgers, ending his tenure in pinstripes.
Rupp took over as starting catcher after the Ruiz trade. He was poor in the framing department and slightly above average when it comes to throwing out hitters. The Texas native had his best offensive season in 2016, where he hit 16 home runs and 54 RBIs and was worth 1.4 fWAR. Rupp, who is currently a free agent, was also well known for his work in the community, especially with the Pennsylvania SPCA. He founded an annual event known today as “Puppapalooza” where Phillies fans could both interact with their favorite players and adopt a dog in need of a home.Embed from Getty Images
After Rupp was designated for assignment just before the beginning of 2018, Jorge Alfaro took over as the primary catcher for the majority of 2018. Alfaro, who was acquired in the 2015 Cole Hamels trade, excelled as a framer. His 11.1 framing runs in 2018 were among the best in baseball in 2018. He had great chemistry with the pitching staff and his ceiling as a defensive catcher was high under the guidance of receiving coach Crag Driver, bullpen coach Bob Stump and third base coach Dusty Wathan. The Colombia native also swung the bat well, slashing .262/.324/.407 with 10 home runs and 37 RBIs in 377 plate appearances in 2018. Wilson Ramos also spent some time behind the plate for the Phillies after being acquired in a trade at the deadline.
As high as Alfaro’s ceiling was, the Phillies could not resist trading for the best catcher in baseball in Realmuto. Alfaro was shipped to Miami along with top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez for Realmuto just before the beginning of Spring Training in 2019. All Realmuto did in his first season as a Phillie was prove he is worthy of his nickname. He led the team in fWAR (5.7) and FanGraphs says that he was the most valuable defender at any position in 2019. He won both a Gold Glove Award, Silver Slugger Award and was elected to his second All-Star Game.
Realmuto was best at throwing out batters with ease. He led the majors in caught stealing percentage (47.6%) and threw a total of 43 unsuspecting runners out on the basepaths:
Without even mentioning how good of a hitter he is, it’s easy to see that the battle for the catcher’s spot on the All-Decade team comes down to Ruiz and Realmuto. It may be appropriate to compare their best seasons with the team:
Realmuto may have had a stellar first season as a Phillie, but it doesn’t outweigh what Ruiz has meant to the organization throughout the decade. He was worth 11.1 fWAR and was the franchise leader in doubles in the 2010s. It’s also important to mention that Ruiz was behind the plate for all four no-hitters thrown by Phillies pitchers in the decade.
If you want to blow someone’s mind with an absurd Phillies fact, tell them Chooch was the catcher for just over 30 percent of no-hitters in the franchise’s history. Halladay’s perfect game and postseason no-hitters along with Cole Hamels’ no-hitter in his final start are fondly remembered, but what often gets forgotten is the combined no-hitter against the Atlanta Braves in 2014. Ruiz called a masterful game and it might as well be recognized as his best work:
Other entries in this series
- Phillies All-Decade outfielders
- Phillies All-Decade third baseman
- Phillies All-Decade shortstop
- Phillies All-Decade second base
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