We continue our countdown of top prospects here at The Good Phight, counting backwards from 20 to our top prospect.
Logan O’Hoppe, 22, R/R
Scouting report, via Fangraphs:
The Phillies have gone out of their way to accelerate O’Hoppe’s climb up the minor league ladder since the moment he signed. He kept his head above water in the college-heavy New York-Penn League at age 19, then was a youthful part of the Phillies’ alt site activity in 2020 before slashing .270/.331/.458 in ’21 (mostly at High-A, with a cup of coffee at Reading and a shot of espresso in Allentown). He wasn’t hurt or anything — he played just over 100 games during the season — and yet the Phillies still pushed him to the Arizona Fall League.
There has been a lot of turnover among the catchers in this org during the last several months, and O’Hoppe is emerging as a potential long-term solution at the position thanks to his bat. Eric considered O’Hoppe’s swing severely detrimental to his prospects, but he was wrong: it’s a feature not a bug. O’Hoppe, who tracks pitches very well and is adept at identifying breaking balls, steps in the bucket. His front side opens up way down the third base line. This type of swing typically leads to pull-only contact and can leave hitters vulnerable on the outer half of the plate, and the low-ball nature of O’Hoppe’s swing made him appear vulnerable to fastballs at the top of the strike zone, too. While Fall League pitching didn’t stress-test the latter potential issue, it became obvious that O’Hoppe, like fellow bucket-stepper Eddie Rosario, can simply get extended and still cover the outer half of the plate pretty easily. He’s short to the baseball and has pretty good strength-driven gap power for a catcher, especially one this age and with this sort of strapping, projectable frame. A solid receiver, O’Hoppe also has surprising lateral agility for a young catcher his size. He’s a lock to catch and has developed at a surprising rate for a cold weather high schooler. He’s a potential future everyday backstop.
Jay: 6, Ethan: 6, Alex: 5
The Phillies have been pretty good lately at developing catchers and it looks like O’Hoppe could be the best of the bunch. Of course, “good” is a relative term. Andrew Knapp isn’t “good”, but he was also a major leaguer for a while after being drafted and developed by the team. Rafael Marchan may not be so hot with the bat, but the team has developed him and his game to the point where some people were whispering about the possibility of moving J.T. Realmuto and installing Marchan as the starter.
O’Hoppe has taken his 2021 season, both in the minors and in the Arizona Fall League, and used it to catapult himself toward the top of Phillies’ prospect lists. There’s good reason, too. He’s gotten much better offensively and improved his defense enough that he won’t be a liability when our robot umpire overlords come to make sure his sketchy pitch presentation skills aren’t a detriment.
He might also be one of the top targets of other teams when it comes to crafting a trade package from the Phillies. We’ve talked about it with regards to Marchan, but of the two young backstops, O’Hoppe is probably the one teams will want more since his offensive profile is higher than that of Marchan. Should the team hold on to him, and with the anticipated introduction of the DH into the National League game, it’s possible that we’re looking at a passing of the torch at the catching position sooner rather than later. That doesn’t mean that Realmuto would be losing any particular skill, but rather O’Hoppe would be beating down the door demanding playing time.
This is an optimistic outcome to be sure, but it isn’t out of the realm of possibility. Trading O’Hoppe isn’t out of the realm of possibility either and should be looked at as a very real option to help improve the big league team. We don’t know if this is O’Hoppe’s peak value, so hanging on to him and having a solid catcher at three different levels of the organization is a good problem to have. It’ll be fascinating to watch his development this coming season.