Monday, February 27, 2017

2017 Phillies Prospects Countdown: #10 Catcher Andrew Knapp

Andrew Knapp, image- Jay Floyd
Following a breakout season in 2015, catcher Andrew Knapp continued to take strides and looked to be near-ready to make a big league splash during his 2016 campaign. 

In 2013 the switch-hitting Knapp was the Phillies' 2nd round draft choice out of the University of California and made his professional debut, 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 while driving in 56 runs.

For his tremendous efforts, 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 2015 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.

Last season, Knapp notched another All-Star nomination, this time with the Triple-A Lehigh Valley IronPigs.  In 107 games, the six-foot-one 195-pounder posted a .266 batting average with eight homers and 46 RBI.

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 staff.

The 25-year-old has quick hands and uses them to drill line drives.  While his numbers from alternate sides of the plate where more even in years past, last season he appeared to have more success  when facing lefties (.772 OPS as a right-handed batter, .684 OPS as a lefty).

Overall, Knapp would not be considered a stolen bases threat, having swiped just 14 bags in 25 attempts (56% success rate) as a professional.

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 in the 2015 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 at the position.

Expect Knapp to return to the Triple-A level this year, but he could be first in line to take on big league duties should an injury take place or if the Phils have a vacancy behind the dish for another reason.



You can follow along with this year’s Phillies prospects countdown by clicking this link.
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