Tommy Joseph batted .179 in 100 at-bats in the minors this past season. (AP)
On the surface, 2013 looks to have been a bad year for Phillies’ catching prospects.
Tommy Joseph, the most advanced of the group, lost a year of development after suffering his third concussion since becoming a pro in 2010.
So much for him pushing for a big-league roster spot in 2014.
Sebastian Valle had a poor season as his slide from prospect status continued.
But a deeper look at the Phils’ minor-league catching situation shows this wasn’t such a bad season after all, at least from a long-range standpoint.
Burly Cameron Rupp rose from Double A to Triple A and is now in the majors. The 24-year-old former Texas Longhorn projects as a player who could stay there, play solid defense and hit some home runs.
Down below, there is quite a bit of promise as the Phils look to groom Carlos Ruiz’s long-range replacement (see story).
Logan Moore, a ninth-round draft pick in 2011, was a Florida State League All-Star. Moore recently turned 23. He does not hit much, but is a top-shelf defender.
“He’s as good a defensive catcher as we have,” said Joe Jordan, the Phillies director of player development.
The bat will be an issue, but Moore projects as a big-leaguer in some role behind the plate.
The Phils’ two most exciting catching prospects are in the low minors.
Andrew Knapp was the team’s second-round pick out of the University of California in June. The 21-year-old switch-hitter hit .253 with four homers, 23 RBIs and a .340 on-base percentage in 62 games for Williamsport in the New York-Penn League this summer.
He could be poised to make a jump to the Florida State League next year.
“He’s going to be a hell of a good player,” Jordan said. “He’s going to be a hitter. He’s a switch-hitter with an above-average arm. He just needs to improve a couple of little things defensively and we can help him there. He’s got a chance a year from now to be one of our better guys.”
Jordan is a former scouting director for the Baltimore Orioles.
“I did the scouting thing for 15 years,” he said. “Let me tell you, Knapp was a hell of a pick in the second round. I don’t know how a college catcher with that kind of offensive ability gets to the second round. It was a really good pick. I think he has a chance to come quickly.”
Often, the best appraisal of a player comes from a different organization. A rival scout who is familiar with the Phillies' system was recently asked for a keep-an-eye-on prospect in the organization
The rival scout did not hesitate.
“Grullon,” he said enthusiastically.
Deivi Grullon is a 17-year-old from the Dominican Republic who played in the Gulf Coast League this summer. The Phillies signed him last summer for $575,000. He’s 5-11 and 180 pounds. He has drawn comparisons to Carlos Ruiz. Grullon shows gap-power potential and as the scout said, “He has a hose for an arm. I really like him.”
A smile crossed Jordan’s face at the mention of Grullon’s name.
“He’s very young,” Jordan said. “But if he puts it all together, it’s every-day, All-Star type ability. Deivi has made as good progress as anyone this year behind the plate.”
Phillies officials will watch all of these catchers in the Florida instructional league later this month.
Joseph, who began 2013 at Triple A and suffered a concussion a month into the season, will report to instructional league and resume catching. Club officials are hopeful that he has recovered from his most recent concussion and can stay at the position instead of moving to first base. The 22-year-old Arizonan was a second-round pick of the Giants in 2009. The Phillies acquired him for Hunter Pence.
“Tommy was at the top of our list when the season started, so it’s a setback not only for us but for him,” Jordan said. “He’s coming to instructional league and he’s going to go behind the plate. We’ve got to take a look and see what we want to do. We’re hoping for the best.”