“Backstops and Battery Mates”

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IronPigs 2016 roster prediction 2.0 begins here, behind the plate.

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Knapp   Photo: Cheryl Pursell

Knapp Photo: Cheryl Pursell

Catchers

It’s not uncommon to have a plethora of catchers available headed into Spring Training.  Let’s face it, somebody has to be there to catch the ball for all the pitchers, no?  It’s also not uncommon for guys to get injured at a demanding position such as “2.”  We’ve also seen roster moves and such happen during Spring Training as the big club aligns catchers with pitching staffs–often based on defense and pitching more than for their bats.

We haven’t had many catching “prospects” come through Allentown during the IronPig years–although there have been some notables–maybe more than I thought:

I know folks who really like Jason “JJ” Jaramillo in 2008.

“Sweet” Lou Marson was highly regarded in 2009, before he had to cross the hall to the visitors dugout during the Clippers series due to the Cliff Lee trade.

We were all big fans of Erik “no C” Kratz following his big call-up during the 2010 All Star Game at Coca Cola Park, and his subsequent signing by the Phillies organization the following year.  It was good to see him back for a short time last season.  He’s with the Padres this season I think.

Cameron “Cowboy” Rupp was always a friend of the blog, and is now a key piece of the Phillies 2016 squad headed into camp.

Sebastian “Not Canadian” Valle was a very highly regarded prospect at one point in his career, but slowed in his development once he reached AA/AAA.  I believe he was with the Pirates org last season, mostly in AA Altoona.  This season he could be with Moosic or Trenton as he’s signed with the Yankees.

Tommy “ToJo” Joseph came back in the Pence deal with San Francisco, and worked his way up from Reading before the concussions got him.  We’re hoping he can mash the ball and solidify a place at 1B this season.

Still, even through all that history, I don’t know as there was a guy who was “Top 10” while he was here.  A “catcher of the future” so to speak.  Maybe Marson.  Maybe Tommy.

It all changes this season.  Maybe.  I’m a bit more concerned than other farm-system watchers and rankers, but there is a lot to be excited about.  The Phillies have assigned three catchers to the IronPigs several times before, and I think that continues to start this season.  In any case, I think there’ll be 5 of them between Reading and Allentown, barring an injury or trade.  My 2.0-prediction IronPigs catchers are:

1.  J.P. Arencibia  He was a participant in that same All Star game at Coca Cola Park where Erik Kratz got his first call from the Pirates.  JP was a highly regarded prospect from Toronto at the time, and playing for the PCL as a Las Vegas 51.  He even entered the HR Derby that we hosted!  Since then he’s bounced around a bit, via trade or free agency or whatnot.  He spent most of last season with the Durham Bulls, playing as much 1B as catcher.  I’m expecting that he’ll fill a similar role for the IronPigs in the early part of 2016 as he functions as experienced depth for the MLB club.  He’ll play a bit behind the plate, he’ll get some time at 1B, and he’ll DH some to stay sharp at the plate.  He likely has an “opt-out” at some point–perhaps June 1, but I’m just guessing–so we’ll have to see how things shake out.  He should provide a nice veteran presence for the young 2016 IronPigs as they start their season.

2. Logan “LoMo” Moore  Logan was born in Scranton, PA in August 1990.  He followed Gabriel Lino up from Reading last season.  While Lino came in and immediately hit the ball–he subsequently cooled off by a lot–“LoMo” provided a steady presence both behind the plate as well as hitting.  The lefty-batting backstop is a couple years older than Lino, which is one of the reasons I have him getting the nod to start 2016 at AAA.  The left-handed bat gives manager Dave Brundage some flexibility.

3. Andrew Knapp  The 24yo Knapp is in the top 10 on most Phillies prospect lists this off-season.  And, unlike many of his list-mates, he’s “home grown,” a second-round draft pick in 2013.  Surgery on his elbow initially stalled his development, but he took off last year.  He was promoted to Reading in the middle of the season and became a key factor in their run to the Eastern League Championship Series.

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Gabriel Lino.  Photo: Cheryl Pursell

Gabriel Lino. Photo: Cheryl Pursell

Discussion:  In my initial roster prediction over the holidays, I had Lino returning to AAA, with Knapp headed back to Reading for the start of the season, at least.  My reasoning was that he had only played 55 games at AA, and only 51 of those behind the plate.  The Phillies typically like their prospect to “season” a bit more in AA.  In addition, although Knapp’s triple slash of .360/.419/.631 is very impressive, we’ve seen the friendly confines in Baseballtown provide similar results for other players in the past–especially in the heat of the summer.

I was ready to dig in on my opinion here, that Knapp should at least get through the first six weeks of the season in Reading before turning that job over full-time to another top-10 prospect, Jorge Alfaro.  At the Phillies Winter Banquet a few weeks ago I asked that very question to some folks with better contacts than I, and with more knowledge of prospects than I.  To a man, they all told me they thought–or heard from the powers that be–that Knapp would start with the IronPigs.  And to be fair, I do agree that both Knapp and Alfaro have questions in their games behind the plate as well as standing along-side it; it does make sense for each to be given plenty of defensive work on different teams rather than splitting time on one team.  As the more junior guy, and one who struggled at the plate late in the season, I’ve got Gabriel Lino in Reading with Alfaro to start the campaign.

Certainly, jobs can be won or lost in Clearwater in February and March, but for now, there you have it–barring injuries, trades, or other roster machinations–those are the three catchers who should be with the IronPigs on opening day.

J.P. Arencibia, Home Run Derby at Coca Cola Park.  Photo: Decal

J.P. Arencibia, Home Run Derby at Coca Cola Park. Photo: Decal

See you at the park,

@Kram209

 



Categories: Kram's Korner - From the Club Level, Lehigh Valley IronPigs

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2 replies

  1. Arencibia famously reduced ESPN reporter Tim Kurkjian nearly to tears with a superb vocal impersonation in 2014… it’s still on the ‘toob. Makes you wonder who he could do here in Ahlentahn…

  2. My section (108) had Arencibia to win the HR derby in all star week in Allentown. He hit 0 with Dan Johnson beating Andy Tracy in the final round. Just saw a few days ago that Baseball America had Knapp in their top 100 prospects for 2016. He was in the 90’s but that’s still impressive. If I remember correctly, Knapp also played some first base in the Arizona Fall League. I like his bat. Hopefully I’ll have a working computer before opening day. Unless my hard drive can be saved, I may have lost all my 2015 Ironpigs photos.

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