Could Andrew Knapp be the Answer at Catcher?

When it comes to the catching position, the Phillies have almost nothing but question marks. Will Jorge Alfaro ever show enough control of the strike zone to be a decent major league hitter? Is Andrew Knapp someone we can expect to be an on base machine going forward? Will Cameron Rupp’s power ever show up to the ballpark on a consistent basis (Okay, this one’s probably not too much of a question mark)? Will someone from the trio of Rupp, Alfaro, and Knapp ever be a competent defender? Let’s take an in depth look at perhaps the least mentioned member of the trio, Andrew Knapp, and see what he could bring to the table in 2018.

First, let’s take a look at what was probably Knapp’s single most defining skill exhibited throughout the 2017 season. If you watched a good amount of Phillies’ games last year, there’s a good chance you immediately thought about his incredible walk rate after reading the previous sentence.

Knapp managed to work walks at an elite rate in 2017, reaching via the free pass 15.2% of the time. Only 11 players (Minimum 100 plate appearances) walked at a higher rate than Knapp, and he put the league average rate of 8.5% to shame. During his recent seasons in the minors, Knapp has walked at a decent clip, but he’s never showed this level of prowess when it comes to bases on balls. Let’s examine if his 2017 numbers were a fluke, or if there’s data to back up his incredible walk rate.

Andrew Knapp’s Plate Discipline Skills


Knapp’s 2017 Rate (%)

League Average Rate (%)






















So, what can we gather from this data? Let’s start by looking at his contact rate. Knapp made significantly less contact than the average hitter on pitches out of the zone, and slightly less contact than the average hitter on pitches within the zone, and overall. He also had a slightly higher swinging strike rate than the average hitter. This makes sense, as Knapp’s strikeout rate was 27.5% last year, which isn’t a deal breaker, but is certainly significantly below average.

While Knapp swung about as much as the average hitter on pitches within the strike zone, he swung far less often on pitches outside of the zone. This indicates that Knapp likely has a good eye at the plate, and, if he continues to show this level of discipline, he should continue to run, at the very least, above league average walk rates, as just about every hitter with a similar O-Swing rate and overall swing rate had a walk rate higher than 10 percent.

Yes, Knapp displayed impressive plate discipline. Now, let’s take a look at what he did when putting the ball in play, to see if he’s an asset while actually swinging the bat.

In 2017, Knapp managed a pedestrian .111 ISO, managing to hit for extra bases only twelve times, with just three homers, in 204 plate appearances. This mark is pretty much in line with his results from the minors, aside from his torrid stretch after being called up to AA Reading in 2015. For reference, Jorge Alfaro recorded an ISO of .196 last season, and Cameron Rupp posted a career best .200 mark.

Despite the lack of game power displayed by Knapp, believe it or not, he actually had the highest average exit velocity of all three Phillies’ catchers. At 88.8 MPH, his average just beat out Rupp at 88.6 MPH, with Alfaro lagging slightly behind at 88.1 MPH. His average exit velocity of 95 MPH on line drives and fly balls was even more impressive, ranking 45th in baseball among the 387 players with at least 100 batted balls. Knapp clearly has the ability to hit the ball with some authority, I mean, take a look at this three run blast off Scott Feldman. Knapp got a hanging curve, and he had no trouble getting it well out of the ballpark to one it's deepest spots.

So, if the ability to hit for, at the very least, respectable power, is something Knapp posseses, why did he hit for virtually no power in 2017? Well, with just a click glance at his stats page on Fangraphs, it’s quite easy to find the answer to that question. It's hard to record extra base hits when you rarely hit the ball in the air, and Knapp hit the ball on the ground a staggering 59% of the time. For reference, the league average ground ball rate last season was 44.2%, and players with similar ground ball rates to Knapp include Eric Young Jr, Yandy Diaz, Arismendy Alcantra, Luis Torrens, and Josh Rutledge. Not exactly a fearsome group of hitters. The main thing they have in common is that they’re all below average hitters, at least when compared to other major leaguers. In fact, if you hadn’t heard of one or more of those players until now, don’t worry. I’m sure you’re not alone.

While Knapp did manage to record a .360 BABIP in 2017, most likely aided by his ground ball heavy batted ball profile, he probably won’t be able to sustain that going forward. If his BABIP falls even slightly going forward, or his walk rate falls to somewhere in the 10-12% range, he’ll go from Andrew Knapp: Just about league average hitter who’s a slightly below average defensive catcher, to, Andrew Knapp: Fringe big leaguer.

In order to ever become anything more than an average to slightly below average hitter, Knapp will have to make some changes to either his swing or his approach, to hit more balls in the air. I can’t imagine many hitters have been successful with a lower flyball rate than strikeout rate, which is something Knapp managed to do last year (23.9% versus 27.5%). It remains to be seen whether or not Knapp will even be on the big league roster come opening day, with Alfaro out of options, and Rupp still in the fold. I’d certainly like to see Knapp given a shot, as he’s demonstrated much better control of the strike zone than both Rupp and Alfaro, hits from both sides of the plate, and is probably at the very least a wash when compared to Rupp defensively, as they both rated as poor framers last season.

If Knapp is capable of adjusting in order to hit more fly balls, maintaining his plate discipline from 2017, and making any strides forward defensively, he could seemingly be a very decent option as an everyday catcher. Unless Alfaro makes some magical steps forward when it comes to plate discipline, Knapp may already be the best catcher on the 40 man roster. If opening day rolls around and Rupp is the everyday starter, while Knapp is relegated to the starting role at Lehigh Valley or the bench, I will think the Phillies have misevaluated their talent.