Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Stopgap: 2017 Player Preview for Cameron Rupp

Cameron Rupp is who we think he is. And that's OK. In fact, that's something we can be thankful about.
Rupp is a burly catcher with slightly above average defensive metrics and power and slightly below average on-base capabilities. He's got flaws. He's got plusses. He's a perfect stopgap for one of the Phillies young catching studs.

This is the seventh in a series of posts previewing the 2017 Philadelphia Phillies. Most recently, we chronicled the Question Mark that is Aaron Nola. This post looks at Cameron Rupp and what he means to the organization.

Phillies fans are beginning to hang their dreams on the bat and arm of Jorge Alfaro. The 24-year-old has a booming bat an a monster arm. Fans also have high hopes for Andrew Knapp, who looks like he could hit .275 with 12 home runs and a .330 on-base percentage in the big leagues.
So what value does Cameron Rupp have with the franchise?
I'd argue plenty.

What he brings to 2017?

I don't think it's hard to imagine Rupp being a 3-4 WAR player this year, based mostly on his power numbers. All he needs to do is tick up his on-base percentage a bit. He was at .302 the last two seasons. If he could get to .310 or .312, he'd be well on his way to being more valuable.
Rupp will likely start the season as the everyday catcher with Andrew Knapp carrying back-up duty.
Rupp will give guys like Knapp and Alfaro a chance to ease their way in to the rotation.
If Knapp lights the world on fire at the outset, he could see increased playing time. But the organization probably wouldn't make him a starter over Rupp for quite awhile.
There's just too much for the organization to gain by playing Rupp four or more days a week, which brings us to the second point.

What does Rupp bring in a trade?

Rupp has been around for parts of four seasons and still can't be a free agent until 2021. His earliest arbitration year is next year. So, he is an effective, cheap player at a prime position.
Unless something shocking happens, I don't see Rupp being traded during this season.
Let's compare what he does and costs with some recent free agents.
  • Rupp's .750 OPS is almost in line with Drew Butera's .808. Butera just got a $3.8 million, two-year deal from the Royals.
  • Rupp's .750 OPS is slightly better than Wellington Castillo's .745. Castillo just got a $6 million, one year deal with the Orioles.
If teams have to pay that much for guys of Rupp's pedigree, the Phillies should be able to get a decent prospect in return. Let's look at some recent trades involving catchers of Rupp's caliber.

  • Anaheim traded Jett Bandy (a rookie with a .690 OPS) to Milwaukee for Milwaukee's backup catcher Martin Maldanado and middling prospect Drew Gagnon.
  • San Diego traded Derek Norris (a .689 career OPS who made $2.9 mil in 2016) to Washington for midlevel prospect Pedro Avila
  • New York traded Brian McCann (coming off a .748 OPS) to the Astros for the Yankees now 11th and 28th best prospects.

I know what you're thinking. Brian McCann is not comparable to Cameron Rupp. Sure, McCann has a legitimate Hall of Fame case (a six-time All-Star with a career .800 OPS) and Rupp hasn't started 200 games in his career yet.
But Rupp had a higher OPS and WAR last year than McCann, who is on the wrong side of 30.

Again, barring Knapp hitting .310 with 8 home runs in the first half and Jorge Alfaro tearing up Triple-A, Rupp isn't getting traded during the season.
But he could bring some value in the offseason.
That said, he'd also be worthwhile to keep around as an insurance policy as Alfero and Knapp continue to grow.

Either way you look at it, Rupp is a valuable member of the organization right now. And, importantly, he will be in the future.


GM-Carson said...

I could see a Rupp trade next offseason. I see him putting up an OPs from .750~.775 and being very alluring as a trade chip following the 2017 season.

Beer-a-Thon said...

Pat Neshek is pitching quite well for Team USA in the WBC.

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