Some of the futures of Phillies starting jobs are clearer than others. It's quite easy to imagine Maikel Franco and Odubel Herrera appearing in post season promotions for years down the road. All you have to do is close your eyes, and hey, there they are. Now, quickly; open them again, before your spouse looks over from the passenger seat. You've been warned about your intense baseball fantasies while driving.
Other positions in the Phillies starting nine aren't as simple to picture. The guy who will be behind the plate for the next Phillies playoff win may in fact be with the organization right now, but the transition that the position is going through is far from complete. Carlos Ruiz is closer to the end of his career, while Jorge Alfaro is a developing young stud, and even Andrew Knapp's 2015 success is being monitored for its sustainability. In the middle is the man we see getting the most playing time, Cameron Rupp, a stout Texan drafted in the third round of the 2010 draft.
Any of their success is a good thing, not just for longer term purposes, but because they're wearing Phillies uniforms, and it's cool when good things happen to them. But as we wait for a red light before taking one last real quick look into the future, let us consider the current state of the Phillies' catching corps, which has undergone a few minor shifts over the last week.
Cameron Rupp's health
Across the Delaware Valley, people jolted up in bed as the sound of Rupp being smashed into by Eugenio Suarez in the Phillies' clutch win over the Reds on Sunday echoed through the land. He appeared to be in pain, somehow not absorbing the full weight of a human body in a dead sprint as if it were nothing, but eventually stood up and left the field without his eyes rolling back into his head.
Later, though, it slipped out that he was indeed being checked out for a possible left leg issue. This led to Pete Mackanin calling Rupp "day to day" on Monday, and the 27-year-old backstop wound up missing two games in a row for the first time this season. The door was open for someone to potentially get an opportunity, and the Phillies made it more clear who that someone would not be soon after.
J.P. Arencibia departs
The Phillies looked to increase their catching depth just before this past Christmas, and decided that Arencibia was the man for the depth. He is 30, he is a career .212 hitter, and he was brought in to catch the pitches of the Phillies' forthcoming pitching prospects at Lehigh Valley. Arencibia's numbers through 71 PA for the Rays in 2015 were fine (.310/.315/.606). His numbers through 48 PA with the IronPigs were not fine (.167/.167/.271).
So Arencibia is gone. The Phillies have been good about having reactions to lapses in productivity of late. Though the plans they form in response aren't always appreciated.
Jorge Alfaro returns
The 22-year-old catcher roared into the season hitting .500 with 10 RBI in his first week with Reading, snatching the Eastern League Player of the Week trophy out of the terrified commissioner's hands, tossing it into the air, and bashing it over the nearest outfield wall. The unsettling start to the season was counterbalanced by Alfaro's move to the seven-day disabled list on April 19 with an oblique, but it was only days later that the Phillies were saying his return was imminent.
Two and a half weeks later, Alfaro returned, and - though he missed some playing time, haviing appeared in only 15 of the first place Fightin' Phils' 37 games so far - now leads the team in BA (.381), OBP (.394), and is second in SLG to only the even more terrifying Dylan Cozens (.571).
And how about this quote from Reading manager Dusty Wathan:
"I don't know if I've ever seen a player play as hard as him, especially being a catcher. He's going to run every ball out, he's going to try for a double every single time, and for a guy that does that at a demanding position. When this guy gets to Philadelphia, people are going to love him. The people are going to love the way he plays baseball. I love watching him."
Andrew Knapp's expectations
Zeroing in on 100 AB for the season, we haven't heard a whole lot from Knapp just yet. He got a whirlwind of attention last year, finishing the season hitting .308/.385/.491 with 13 HR as a from-nowhere source of power embedded in the farm system.
This year, he's taking his time compiling incredible numbers, simmering at .245, but slugging .459 - now second on the team behind only Taylor Featherston after Tommy Joseph's promotion to the big club. Knapp just hit his fifth home run of the year on Sunday.
Here's footage of a different home run, earlier in the season, when the broadcasters were still awakening from their off-season hibernation.
Check out this Carlos Ruiz slide
It was pretty sweet.
there are very few things I love more on this planet than watching Carlos Ruiz run pic.twitter.com/BzKX3j0rXL— chris jones¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (@LONG_DRIVE) May 17, 2016
So, should Ruiz not be available, who exactly would be strapping on leg protectors?
Emergency catchers for #Phillies tonight are Andres Blanco and Emmanuel Burriss— Stephen Gross (@SteveGrossMCall) May 16, 2016
Ah, yes. The team's worst player or the team's best player. Excellent. Let's just close our eyes one last time and imagine what either of those scenarios would look like.
[Car veers off road, starts plowing through parking cones]