Since 2017, the Philadelphia Phillies have had a stalwart backup catcher in Andrew Knapp. The former top prospect caught 225 games for the Phillies in that timespan, bridging the gap from Cameron Rupp to Jorge Alfaro to J.T. Realmuto. Now, for the first time in six years, it seems like the Phillies will be Knapp-less on Opening Day.
Currently, the Phillies have three candidates to fill Knapp’s former position, a position in which he added little defensive support and slashed .152/.215/.214. Almost any replacement will be an upgrade.
Two potential options come from within the Phillies farm system, perhaps the most likely of which is Rafael Marchan. In 65 big league plate appearances, the 22-year-old Venezuelan slashed .267/.323/.417.
These numbers may seem enticing, especially considering Marchan is also known for his defensive prowess. However, they don’t entirely align with his career numbers at lower levels.
In the minor leagues, Marchan has slashed .265/.327/.319, fine enough totals considering his defense, but not a hitter the Phillies would want to rely upon. These numbers come with the added caveat that Marchan has little to no power. His only two career home runs have both come at the big league level.
The Phillies second internal option is Logan O’Hoppe. The 22-year-old New Yorker burst onto the scene in 2021, slashing .270/.331/.458 between high-A, double-A, and triple-A. He continued to impress at Peoria in the Arizona Fall League where he hit three home runs in 100 plate appearances for a .299/.440/.520 slashline.
O’Hoppe is a more offensive-minded player than Marchan, but he may need more seasoning in the minors, and his defense leaves something to be desired. O’Hoppe only saw six games with Lehigh Valley in 2021, so unless he’s shows even further growth during spring training, the Phillies will stash him in triple-A to begin the season.
The third and final option is a player brand new to the Phillies' system. Acquired Nov. 19, 2021 in a trade with the Houston Astros for Logan Cerny, Garret Stubbs is the most battle-tested of the three players. He has a whopping 87 big league plate appearances.
Should Stubbs begin 2022 with the Phillies, he would be one of only six players who have participated in playoff baseball, the others being Didi Gregorius, Bryce Harper, Kyle Gibson, and Jose Alvarado.
In limited big league action, Stubbs has slashed .182/.238/.247. Of course, 87 plate appearances is still a small sample size, but his minor league track record is a little bit better than Marchan’s, though not as illustrious as O’Hoppe’s.
Last year with the triple-A Sugar Land Skeeters, Stubbs slashed .266/.418/.363 in 146 plate appearances. In his prior minor league stint with the Skeeters in 2019, he slashed .240/.332/.397.
Between the three, it would seem most likely that Marchan takes the job to begin the season, but Stubbs is also on a major league contract. Therefore, if he impresses at spring training, the Phillies would incur no penalty to put him on the 26-man roster.
O’Hoppe, the player with whom the Phillies have the highest hopes, is still on a minor league contract. If they want him on the major league roster to begin the year, they must remove a player to make room on the 40-man roster. That means waiving and DFA-ing a player that the Phillies have no obligation to release, a situation no front office fancies.
Of course, the Phillies aren’t done making moves. When the lockout ends, Phillies President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski may find he favors none of these three players. There’s nothing but money preventing him from finding a fourth option.
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