As we move toward the 2016 season, let us take a look at each player on the roster and what a reasonably successful season would look like. We started with Aaron Nola. Our most recent entry was Aaron Altherr.
PlayerName: Cameron Rupp
Age: 28 in September
What we saw in 2015
Cameron Rupp was expected to be the backup catcher for the Philadelphia Phillies, but he ended up starting 40 of the team's final 62 games. Partially this was because of Carlos Ruiz' lack of production, but Rupp grabbed the starting job with both hands when he was given the opportunity.
The burly right-handed hitter finished the year with a .233/.301/.374 slash line with nine homers and nine doubles in 299 plate appearances. But in those final 62 games, he hit a nice .246/.323/449./772. Rupp's defense got a lot of praise. He nabbed 38 percent of base steals and had seven past balls. It was a vast improvement over the previously steady Ruiz, who caught just 19 percent of runners and had 5 past balls.
In all, he ended up with a 1.0 WAR.
Important goals for 2016Batting average: Yes, we know. Batting average isn't as important as on-base percentage. But Rupp takes care of his walks. So far, in the majors, he's walked in 7.7 percent of his plate appearances. It's not great, but it's not bad. It's also somewhat in line with his minor league track record (.09), in which he walked 141 times in 1,555 at bats. What surprises you with Rupp is that he had a .286 BAPIP, which was below the league average by about 15 points. Improving his batting average on balls in play will show up dramatically in his batting average. Even seven or eight points would help him keep his job.
Power numbers: Rupp's nine homers came late in the season. During the first half, he couldn't buy one. That power is going to have to stay consistent. Maybe it bodes well for Rupp that Aaron Nola will start the season in the big leagues. Fella hit home runs in five of Nola's 13 starts. But it's not just homers, Rupp has to get some more doubles, too.
Defense: Rupp can contribute the most to the team through his defense because of the Phillies' young staff. If he can provide Nola, Jerad Eickhoff and company a strong backstop, the franchise will be thankful. Measuring a catcher's impact isn't easy, but Rupp has to help these guys by keeping runner's honest, blocking balls in the dirt and calling a good game. Yeah, that's soundbitish, but it's true. And calling a good game might be different for each pitcher. Maybe he let's Nola do what he can do, but challenges a Vincent Velazquez to pitch out of his comfort zone more.
AnalysisYou've gotta like Rupp, a talented and workman like backstop. But he's The Answer fans are looking for. Some drool over Jorge Alfaro. Others are in love with Andrew Knapp. Still, Deivi Grullon has his backers. But those guys are still probably a year away, if not more.
Rupp doesn't just get pushed by the team's youth.
This year is probably Ruiz' last go-around with the Phillies thanks to those stable of young knees and promising bats. But his reputation commands respect. He'll probably see his fair share of games, particularly if the Phils consider moving him to a contender at the trade deadline.
So long as Rupp doesn't struggle early, he should get about 90 to 100 starts at catcher this year.
Then he'll have to scratch and claw to keep his job in 2016.