Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Prospect Nation 2016: #5 Catcher Andrew Knapp

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Andrew Knapp, image- Jay Floyd
Catcher Andrew Knapp really put himself on the map last year with a breakout season. Notching an All-Star bid while posting terrific offensive numbers and obtaining organizational honors, the 24-year-old now looks primed to make an impact at the highest levels of the sport.

Knapp was the Phillies' 2nd round draft choice out of the University of California and made his professional debut that year, tallying a .253 batting average with four home runs, 23 RBI and seven steals in 62 games for the short-season Class A Williamsport Crosscutters.

That off-season, the righty throwing Knapp required Tommy John surgery to repair a damaged elbow. He was back on the field by the following May, getting at bats, but sitting out on defense for some time to allow additional recovery for his elbow. He joined the Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers during the fifth week of the season. It was mid-June by the time he would play on the defensive side of the game.

Upon joining the Threshers, Knapp struggled with the bat, posting a .157 average with a home run and seven RBI in 23 games. After a 5-for-48 (.104 avg) stretch that wrapped up on June 1st, Knapp was demoted to Class A Lakewood, where he would rebound offensively. In 75 games as a member of the BlueClaws, he posted a .290 batting average along with five homers and 25 RBI.

To open the 2015 season, Knapp returned to Clearwater and represented the team as a mid-season All-Star. In 63 games with the Threshers, the six-foot-one 190-pounder notched a .262 average with a pair of home runs and 28 RBI. By late June, Knapp was promoted to Double-A Reading, where his offensive output was on fire. In 55 games with the Fightins, he batted .360, slugging 11 homers and driving in 56 runs.

For his tremendous campaign, the man known as "The California Kid" was honored with the Paul Owens Award, which is an annual nod bestowed up the top performing offensive player and pitcher in the Phillies' developmental ranks.

During the off-season, Knapp played in the prestigious Arizona Fall League, where he put together a .235/.294/.375 slash line in 15 games and represented the Phils in the league's Fall Stars Game exhibition.

Coaches praise Knapp's leadership abilities. His battery mates tend to credit Knapp with their success and praise his ability to call a game. He is described as polished and has proven to be a great captain for his pitching staffs.

A switch-hitter, Knapp drills line drives and possesses power from both sides of the plate (.655 SLG% as RHB with Reading, .622 SLG% as LHB with Reading).

Knapp makes up a pair of backstops among the Phillies' top 10 prospects along with Jorge Alfaro. If both progress at a rapid pace, it may be necessary for one of them to switch positions. Knapp considers himself athletic enough to adapt to that type of change, citing his efforts on defense in the outfield and at first base during his college career. He also played some first base in the AFL this off-season. Behind the dish, though, he has a strong arm and displays good footwork. Some critics state that receiving pitches is the area of his game that requires the most improvement, but I consider him a quality defender already at the position.

Expect Knapp to catch at the Triple-A level this year, likely opening the upcoming season there. Provided he's able to continue with the type of success he enjoyed last year, he should be virtually on deck to make his way to the big league roster if and when a spot opens up there for any reason. He projects to be an everyday big leaguer.

Follow this year's full prospect countdown by clicking this link.

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