The 2020 regular season is scheduled to begin in late July, which means it’s finally time to talk some baseball! To prepare you for the season, Phillies Nation will be taking an in-depth look at all of your favorite players. Here’s a review of Andrew Knapp’s 2019 season as well as what to expect from the Phillies catcher in 2020.
Since arriving in the big leagues in 2017, Andrew Knapp, who was ranked as a top 100 prospect by Baseball America in 2016, hasn’t been able to become that solid everyday catcher the Phillies thought he could be. He has managed to turn himself into a reliable backup who has a good rapport with the pitching staff. Though Knapp has averaged 60.6 strikeouts over the last three years, there have been a few clutch performances where Knapp came through when needed over his career giving signs of hope for the UC Berkeley product.
Right when it looked like the Phillies had a durable catching duo in Jorge Alfaro and Knapp after the 2018 season, the team traded for the best catcher in baseball in J.T. Realmuto. Heading into 2020, Knapp’s role as the backup catcher is all but solidified.
2019 Stats: 74 G, 160 PA, 2 HRs, 8 RBIs, .213/.318/.324 68 OPS+, 0.2 fWAR
Heading into the 2019 season, Knapp looked to improve both offensively and defensively after having the worst season of his career in 2018. Fortunately for the 28-year-old, he did just that. He improved his stat line to .213/318/.324 from .198/.294/.316 thanks to an excellent second-half at the plate.
Though the sample size is not the same as Realmuto, who started 145 of 162 games last season, Phillies pitchers ironically had better numbers with Knapp catching. As noted by Phillies Nation’s own Jonny Heller, pitchers with Knapp behind the plate had a 4.24 ERA, .763 OPS against and a 2.81 K/BB rate while with Realmuto they had 4.61 ERA, .793 OPS against and a 2.48 K/BB rate.
He got an opportunity to start seven of the last eight games in the last week of the season due to the team’s elimination from the playoffs and Realmuto’s knee injury. In those seven games, Knapp collected eight hits, five doubles, three RBIs and a home run.
Perhaps the most memorable moment from Knapp last year came on May 28 when he belted one into the second deck at Miller Park against Brandon Woodruff to break up a perfect game:
Finally, the season will begin next week with the first games taking place on the 23rd and 24th. According to this page, Phillies’ opened as -215 favorites against Miami. Though there will be fewer games this year, the Phillies are going to look for Knapp to take the next step of his career and build on last year.
Serving as a team’s backup catcher this year might bring more starting time behind the plate for Knapp. With what is going to be a sprint to the finish line and fewer off days given, using players correctly and safely will be a part of a team’s strategy to get into the playoffs. If and when Girardi gives Realmuto a day off his feet and uses him as the DH, Knapp can find himself as the starting catcher. Realmuto told reporters over Zoom that he could easily see himself catching 50-55 games, but isn’t sure if Girardi would let him.
One of the reasons why Knapp has drawn the ire of Phillies fans everywhere is because he was frequently used as a pinch-hitter in a high-leverage situation. This is a more of a testament to just how thin the Phillies are in terms of talent coming off the bench. Most winning teams in the National League do not have to rely on their backup catcher to get hits in key situations.
Knapp had a .515 OPS as a pinch-hitter in 2019 with only one extra-base hit. The Phillies bench looks more talented than it did in years past and with the universal DH coming to the NL in 2020, it wouldn’t be surprising at all if Knapp doesn’t receive a single at-bat as a pinch-hitter in a medium to high-leverage situation in the shortened season.
If Knapp is able to find consistency in whatever role he is put into this year, the Phillies could find themselves with a dependable option at catcher for a playoff run.
Check out our previous 2020 Season Previews
- Héctor Neris
- Zach Eflin
- Adam Morgan
- Jean Segura
- Aaron Nola
- Rhys Hoskins
- Zack Wheeler
- Didi Gregorius
- Nick Pivetta
- Adam Haseley
- Andrew McCutchen
- Vince Velasquez
- Roman Quinn
- Scott Kingery
There’s been more players testing positive for COVID and plenty more will likely test positive between now and the start of the first game. The season is already cut short but if more cases pop up, will they cancel it entirely?
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