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Catching prospect Alfaro debuts with GCL Phillies

Posted by Jay Floyd, Thu, August 27, 2015 07:31 PM Comments: 4

milb logoNew Phillies prospect Jorge Alfaro made his Phillies organization debut on Thursday, going 1-for-1 while reaching base twice after being hit with a pitched ball.  Starting at catcher for the Phils’ rookie level Gulf Coast League team, the Colombia native left the game early after three plate appearances.

Reached via text message, Phillies director of player development Joe Jordan said he saw Alfaro play in person and asserted that the 22-year-old is fine after the HBP’s.  Jordan also stated that the youngster will play again with the GCL club on Friday.

Alfaro was a key return from Texas in the Cole Hamels trade just a few weeks ago.  He was previously sidelined following ankle surgery.

Opposing runners went 0-for-1 against Alfaro in his organizational debut, as the young backstop gunned down the only potential base stealer.

Also competing in the game for the GCL team was 28-year-old Cuban Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, who tossed four scoreless frames, earning a no decision as the starter.  Through four appearances, the right-hander has not allowed a run in 11 innings pitched.  Gonzalez has struck out 10 batter and walked four thus far. Continue reading Catching prospect Alfaro debuts with GCL Phillies

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Nation Notes: Mets vs. Phillies

Posted by Matthew Gephart, Thu, August 27, 2015 05:36 PM Comments: 0

New York Mets (70-56) at Philadelphia Phillies (50-77)

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Starting Pitchers:
PHI: Aaron Harang, RHP (5-14, 4.67)
vs.
NYM: Jon Niese, LHP (8-9, 3.80)

Time: 7:05 EST, Citizens Bank Park
TV: CSN
Weather: Cloudy, 79 degrees
Media: Twitter and Facebook

A Note for Today:

After another loss to the Mets for the third straight game, the ‘best record since the all-star break’ excuse is looking a lot bleaker.  Perhaps it was the loss of the explosive bat of Maikel Franco?  Maybe the departure of our Ace?  Many arrows can be pointing in all directions, but looking forward to the future has it’s upsides.  The Phillies before this series with the Mets were only 2 games from being .500 at Citizens Bank Park, a feat that could be accomplished with some devotion and perseverance.

Maikel Franco making his way back before the end of the season could be a huge plus, but the expansion of the roster is a mere 5 days away and Nick Williams, who has been a huge return in the Cole Hamels deal, is turning heads, as well as Andrew Knapp, Phillies prospect catcher.

Aaron Altherr will make a start in the lineup today versus the Mets, and will bat 5th in the lineup.  Darnell Sweeney will look to come off the bench after going 1 for 4 last night in his first start at CBP.

Aaron Harang will get the start tonight for the Phillies after going 7.0 innings against the Marlins on August 22nd where he gave up 2 earned runs on 2 hits.

Jon Niese will face the Phillies after pitching last in Colorado where he gave up 11 hits and 7 earned runs.

First pitch is at 7:05 EST.

Lineup:

Hernandez 2B, Blanco 3B, Herrera CF, Francouer RF, Altherr LF, Ruf 1B, Ruiz C, Galvis SS,  Harang RHP

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PN Interview: RHP Ben Lively talks Reading postseason push

Posted by Jay Floyd, Thu, August 27, 2015 04:30 PM Comments: 0

B Lively 2

Ben Lively, image- Jay Floyd

Activated on Thursday from the disabled list after dealing with a shoulder strain, right-hander Ben Lively will help the Double-A Reading Fightins push toward the postseason.

In 22 starts this year for Reading, the 23-year-old sports a record of 8-7 with a 4.17 ERA while striking out 96 batters and walking 42 in 127 1/3 innings.

Lively was acquired last off-season from Cincinnati for Marlon Byrd.

Earlier this month, I spoke with Ben about some ups and downs this season, his excitement level to be chasing the Eastern League crown and more. Read ahead for that interview.

-You’ve mostly been consistent this season, but have had some shaky outings. What are your thoughts on your 2015 thus far?

We’ve been working on a lot of stuff this year. I kind of got in a little funk and that got me down, and that’s what kind of got me up and down and I haven’t been consistent. But, this past outing we were watching stuff from last year, kind of nit picked little stuff we needed to work on and it’s been working out. I feel like everything just snapped in and I’ve been working in my bullpens and everything’s been feeling great and hopefully, it turns on the rest of the way.

-You spoke of reviewing film and making adjustments. What can you share about what you worked on?

I mean, just like kind of worked on my front side. Tried to stiffen up my front side, to get more power and stuff. I was spinning off and I was throwing the ball all over the place. I feel like I have to get everything where I want it. Everything felt ten times better (in my last start) with the things we adjusted to. Continue reading PN Interview: RHP Ben Lively talks Reading postseason push

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A friendly letter to a Mets fan

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Thu, August 27, 2015 02:00 PM Comments: 38

new-york-mets-alternate-logo-2-primary_display_imageDear Mets Fan,

It was October 19, 2006. My 22nd birthday. I was in Boston, back in my college town to celebrate. While stopping at my old school newspaper office, I watched Adam Wainwright hurl a curveball, outside corner, and Carlos Beltran saw it … saw it … saw it … and buckled.

Called strike three.

Game over.

Mets lose.

What a terrible moment. What a heartbreaker. Especially after that Endy Chavez catch. But I’m sure you remained optimistic in your chances at reaching the postseason again. It was October 2006. You had Wright and Reyes, Beltran, Delgado and Lo Duca. And the pitching! Glavine, Pedro, two young studs in John Maine and Oliver Perez, and a bullpen headlined by Pedro Feliciano, Aaron Heilman and the great Billy Wagner. So much talent on one team! Of course you were coasting into 2007 with eyes on the final prize; you had it in the bag!

But we know what happened in 2007. We don’t have to revisit it.

On second thought, let’s.

You had a six-game lead going into a late-August four-game series in Philadelphia. And what happened? Pounded in game one, a Ryan Howard walk off in game two, a Marlon Anderson miscue in game three, and an epic game four where your boy Wagner left the door wide open. Remember when Wagner spoke ill of the Phillies? Remember Pat Burrell slamming a home run off Wagner in game four? Remember Jayson Werth and Tadahito Iguchi stealing bags off ol’ Billy by practically walking?

Karma is a killer.

And yet you guys started winning again! And the Phils started losing! And just like that on Sept. 13 you had a seven-game lead on the Phillies. Seven! And then a weekend series at Shea.

And again you were swept by the Phils!

I was there on Saturday, Sept. 15. Remember that one? Pedro gave you a 3-1 lead in the seventh, and yet you blew it again. Aaron Rowand homered. Hell, Pete LaForest drew a crucial walk. Then Jimmy Rollins struck a ball over Beltran’s head and plated the winning run. Oh, and one day later Greg Dobbs hit a pinch-hit grand slam. Hilarious, right?

And then that final weekend. And that final cold September day. Within 20 minutes you were down 7-0 to the Marlins … the Marlins! And all we needed was a win. So Jamie Moyer did his thing, and Rollins hit his 20th triple of the year, and Howard homered, and our bullpen locked it down, and we made the playoffs. Not you. We.

And then 2008 happened. And hey, you were still confident, as well you should’ve been. Wright was an all-world stud. Reyes was clearly a star. Young pitching looked great. And despite a cool start, you heated up and reached first place by mid-season. Hell, you had a 3.5-game lead on Sept. 10!

But same old story, huh?

Lest we forget the whole firing Willie Randolph in the middle of a west-coast swing thing, right?

Then you opened 2009 in Citi Field. New stadium! New hopes! New dreams!

Boy did you guys suck.

I mean you guys just tanked that one, right? The Phillies went 12-6 against you. You complained about the stadium’s huge dimensions, and yet Chase Utley hit so many homers to the right corner that your lead TV announcer named that part of the stadium after him.

I repeat, there’s a part of your stadium named after a longtime Phillie.

I guess 2010 was better, but let’s be honest, you stunk that year, too. And 2011, oh what a smack to the head. And you kept hearing it. “Next year,” right? You’d get some big bats, some strong arms. Jason Bay, anyone? Then a new manager, a new general manager. Same ownership though … same toxic ownership with financial issues …

Look, it sucks being the doormat. It sucks being the laughing stock. And sure, there were times in 2007, 2008 and even 2009 when we Phillies fans said a little too much, yelled a little too loud, and acted a little too unruly. That’s how it goes, and frankly, I do apologize for that. We can be better than that. But I gotta say, at some point during that 2009 season, when the Phillies were playing well and you just … well … sucked … we stopped worrying, we stopped caring.

Sure we invaded your sparkling new (and beautiful, I should say) ballpark and rooted for the Phillies. Sure we teased a little here and there. But honestly, we moved past being concerned about the Mets. We were more worried about … well … I guess we just waited until the postseason to really be worried. And sure, we choked in some of those playoff rounds. Sure, we wish we had another title or two in our belts. We could’ve won them, really could’ve. But we knew that when a team was below us, we didn’t need to spend our precious time belittling them.

And here’s the thing: We won one. We took it in 2008. And along the way we beat you in crucial, competitive, all-or-nothing baseball. Yeah. We earned it.

So now you’re sitting pretty atop the National League East, 6.5 games up on the Nationals. Frankly, and I say this personally, I’m happy for you. You have a great team built by young starting pitching, supported by experienced hitters who are simply mashing the ball right now. As I said, your ballpark is gorgeous, and you know, you guys deserve this. You’ve been through too much crap. You’ve been heartbroken too long. And especially if you knock out Washington, it’s a well-earned playoff trip for the Metropolitans. Congratulations on the success so far this season.

Now you’ve come into Citizens Bank Park and practically wiped the floor with the Phillies. As you should, because, as I said, you’re a great team. And the Phillies stink right now. We know this. We’re not fools. We’re hoping to build for a better future, and I’m optimistic about that process. Moreover, you’ve invaded our park, just as we once invaded yours. And you’re vocal, you’re cheering. Good. Go for it.

Sure we had a dust-up in the second game of the series. Double standards aside, the Phillies are still trying to be competitive, and Larry Bowa – while unhinged (and that’s putting it lightly) – is looking out for his players.

What I’m saying, Mets fan, is be very, very careful. Be happy for your success – which, by the way, only recently exploded. Not like you have a long track record here. Celebrate the wins. But watch what you say and how you act, especially regarding your old rivals the Phillies.

Right now you’ll have your way with us, but one day – and that day could be sooner than you think – you may find yourself as sad as the guy at Shea Stadium that cold, cold September afternoon in 2007.

Karma. Remember it.

With love,

A Phillies Fan

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Maikel Franco could play again in 2015

Posted by Ryan Gerstel, Thu, August 27, 2015 10:40 AM Comments: 0

(Via Philly.com)

(Via Philly.com)

The initial thought regarding Maikel Franco and his wrist fracture was that the rookie would sit out the rest of 2015 and prepare to play again in 2016.

According to Pete Mackanin, however, there is a “real good chance” the 22-year-old finds himself back in the Phillies’ starting lineup before the end of the season.

“Right now there’s a real good chance of his coming back,” Mackanin told Jim Salisbury Wednesday.

Franco suffered what was originally thought to be a wrist contusion on Aug. 11 in Arizona, where he was hit on the wrist by a Jeremy Hellickson fastball. The third baseman sat out five games before an MRI revealed there was actually a small fracure, and Franco was put on the 15-day disabled list.

“He was checked today and he’ll be checked again in a week or so. He’s making good progress,” general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Wednesday.

According to Salisbury, Franco has been cleared to participate in all baseball activities except swinging a bat, but if he is cleared to swing next week, he could work his way to face live pitching, in which case he could return to the starting lineup sometime in September.

“If he’s 100 percent healthy, let him play,” Mackanin said. “Give him as many at-bats as you can. We’re going to be playing teams that are playing for something in the last few weeks of the season. It’s good to play in games like that, to play in New York and play in Washington with huge crowds and with pressure on. There’s pressure on us, too, to win.”

For a player as young as Franco, the more at-bats he gets, the better. If he’s not completely healthy, however, there is no reason to rush the team’s best young hitter back to lineup and risk further injury.

The Phillies are 5-9 since losing Franco, and the offense has been spotty, averaging just over four runs per game. Utility player Andres Blanco has made most of the starts at third base in Franco’s absence and has filled in well, batting .364 with a .429 OBP and a 1.110 OPS.

Franco was working himself into National League Rookie of the Year conversations before landing on the disabled list. He led all qualifying big league rookies in OPS (.828) and slugging percentage (.490) to go along with a .277 average, 13 home runs and 48 RBIs.

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Nation Notes: Mets vs. Phillies

Posted by Matthew Gephart, Wed, August 26, 2015 06:06 PM Comments: 3

New York Mets (69-56) at Philadelphia Phillies (50-76)

MetsLogophiladelphia-phillies-p

Starting Pitchers:
PHI: Jerad Eickhoff, RHP (1-0, 0.00)
vs.
NYM: Bartolo Colon, RHP (10-11, 4.90)

Time: 7:05 EST, Citizens Bank Park
TV: CSN
Weather: Partly Sunny, 79 degrees
Media: Twitter and Facebook

A Note for Today:

The third game of the four game series against the Mets comes to you tonight, featuring Jerad Eickhoff in his second showing of the year after facing the Miami Marlins on August 21st.  Eickhoff came to the Phillies in the Cole Hamels trade with Texas, and looks to impress in his second outing after going 6.0 innings, only giving up 5 hits and no earned runs, while striking out 5 and walking only one batter.

Darnell Sweeney, who is a product of the most recent Chase Utley trade, will get his first look at the infield for the Phillies while leading off in the batting order.  Sweeney has gotten 5 game appearances so far since the trade, and had a home run for his first Major League hit on August 22nd against the Marlins.  In Triple-A for the year, Sweeney held a .271 batting average with 30 doubles and 9 home runs while playing 45 games at second base.

Bartolo Colon will be starting opposite the Phillies tonight, and has been fighting an ailment after being hit in the forearm by a pitch and was questionable to make his start.  The Phillies find themselves 10-1 against the Mets for the year, and it can’t get much worst than that.  Colon won both of the meetings in May, but still gave up 3 and 4 runs per outing, hoping that a more solid offense can take more of a chunk away from Bartolo this time around.

First pitch is at 7:05 EST.

Lineup:

Sweeney 2B, Galvis SS, Herrera CF, Howard 1B, Blanco 3B, Asche LF, Rupp C, Brown RF, Eickhoff RHP

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Aaron Altherr out of the Phillies starting lineup, again

Posted by Ryan Gerstel, Wed, August 26, 2015 04:26 PM Comments: 7

The Phillies’ starting lineup for Wednesday night’s game against the rival Mets has been released, and Aaron Altherr’s name is nowhere to be seen.

Why is Altherr sitting the bench for a third-straight game? The 24-year-old is batting just .222 in a severely small sample size (18 at-bats), but he has shown good power with two home runs and all four of his hits have gone for extra-bases (two HRs, two doubles). The only logical conclusion is that interim manager Pete Mackanin has elected to start Altherr exclusively against left-handed starters.

In last weekend’s series in Miami, Altherr started three of four games for the Phillies, finishing 2-for-11 with two RBIs. One trend in his starts were the starting pitchers for the Marlins. In all three of his starts, the Marlins started left-handed pitchers. Last Thursday’s game featured left-hander Brad Hand with left-hander Justin Nicolino starting Saturday’s game, and lefty Adam Conley starting Sunday’s game. The one game he didn’t start was Friday’s game, when the Marlins started right-hander Kendry Flores.i

Through the first two games of this week’s four-game series, the Mets have thrown two flame-throwing right-handed starters at the Phillies in Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard. Altherr sat the bench for each game, with Mackanin electing to go with left-handed bats Domonic Brown and Cody Asche in the corner outfield positions for each game.

Altherr saw action in Tuesday night’s game in a double-switch, where he took over in center field for Odubel Herrera. Altherr recorded zero hits in two at-bats with two strikeouts—both against Mets right-handed relievers.

But why is Altherr being designated to this role after only a week since being promoted? One would think that the Phillies, who have lacked serious power in the outfield all season long, would give a young outfielder who has shown some pop more starting time, whether the opposing starter is left or right-handed. The fact that the club is rebuilding is another reason why the 24-year-old Altherr should be in the starting lineup more frequently.

Tonight, the Phillies will face 42-year-old Bartolo Colon. Even as a right-handed pitcher, right-handed batters are hitting .274 off Colon this season with 31 extra-base hits—including 11 home runs. On top of that, Colon has had a down year with a 10-11 record and a 4.90 ERA. Colon does not possess an over-powering arm that can dominate right-handed batters like deGrom and Syndergaard do. According to Fangraphs, Colon’s average fastball velocity this season has sat at 90.3 MPH.

Brown has four hits in nine at-bats through the first two games of this series, so keeping him in the lineup is logical. However, Asche has only one hit in seven at-bats and struck out twice in Tuesday’s game. Why can’t Altherr see a start  in place of him against a vulnerable right-hander like Colon? Just because he’s a right-handed pitcher shouldn’t justify a decision to keep a promising young talent out of the lineup. If the worry is taking at-bats from Asche, then put him back at third base here and e to there to give Andres Blanco, who is an above-average utility player at best, a breather.

It’s not like Altherr is notoriously weak against right-handed pitching. In 338 at-bats this season against right-handers between Double-A, Triple-A, and the majors, Altherr has posted a slash line of .284/.345/.467 with 11 home runs and 23 doubles. He has shown the ability to hit right-handed pitching, so why keep him out of the lineup every time the Phillies face one?

For a team that is in dire need of power-hitting corner outfielders, the fact that Altherr will not start for a third-straight game is puzzling. At just 24, he is arguably more the future in the outfield than Brown or Asche—who have likely shown their ceiling as major league hitters. The ceiling for Altherr is impossible to gauge in just 18 at-bats this season, but his numbers in the minors have shown that he deserves an opportunity to prove that he can be an every day outfielder for the Phillies as they continue to put the pieces in place for their rebuild.

End of rant.

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Phillies Nation Episode 20: Amaro’s Future, Trade Evaluations & Knapp Feature

Posted by Jay Floyd, Wed, August 26, 2015 08:05 AM Comments: 2

This week on Phillies Nation, Kevin Cooney of Calkins Media and the Bucks County Courier Times joins Rachel and Corey to evaluate the Phillies’ recent trades as well as discuss Ruben Amaro‘s future with the Phillies.  Plus, Jay Floyd has a special report on Andrew Knapp, Reading’s hot switch-hitting catcher.

Check out this week’s episode in the media player below and look for new episodes to premiere each Tuesday at 6PM on The Comcast Network.

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Nation Notes: Mets vs. Phillies

Posted by Matthew Gephart, Tue, August 25, 2015 05:27 PM Comments: 7

New York Mets (68-56) at Philadelphia Phillies (50-75)

MetsLogophiladelphia-phillies-p

Starting Pitchers:
PHI: Jerome Williams, RHP (4-9, 3.92)
vs.
NYM: Noah Syndergaard, RHP (7-6, 6.10)

Time: 7:05 EST, Citizens Bank Park
TV: CSN
Weather: Sunny, 86 degrees
Media: Twitter and Facebook

A Note for Today:

If you were looking away last night for a split second, you would have missed a spectacle that hasn’t happened in over 30 years.  Combined home runs last night tallied eleven, the first time since 1979 it has happened in the National League.  Brought to you by the numbers 8, and 3, the amounts of home runs the Mets and Phillies had respectively.

If there was a bright side to the 16-7 loss last night, the offense worked it’s magic to get Mets ace, Jacob DeGrom, out of the game in the 3rd inning.  If that wasn’t enough, there were two three-run home runs off him by then too.

Tonight, Jerome Williams will get to show what he’s got against the (apparently) explosive offense, after giving up 8 hits and 8 earned runs in his last start against the Marlins.  Perhaps there was just something in the air last night that brought on the rain down of hail-bombs, but tonight Jerome has a tough fight ahead of him if he wants to keep a spot among the ever growing younger crop of pitchers making their way to the team.

Same starting lineup tonight for the Phillies, minus Cameron Rupp, Carlos Ruiz will catch for Jerome tonight.

First pitch at 7:05 EST.

Lineup:

Hernandez 3B, Galvis SS, Herrera CF, Howard 1B, Blanco 3B, Asche LF, Brown RF, Ruiz C, Williams RHP

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The catching shift: Rupp earning a long look

Posted by Tim Malcolm, Tue, August 25, 2015 02:13 PM Comments: 8

Cameron Rupp, image- Jay Floyd

Cameron Rupp, in a younger day. Image- Jay Floyd

Since 1940, the Phillies have started six catchers for more than five seasons. Together, Andy Seminick, Clay Dalrymple, Bob Boone, Darren Daulton, Mike Lieberthal and Carlos Ruiz have a career average WAR of 20.8. Boone is a little higher than the others, while Lieberthal is a tad lower than the others. But nobody is near the threshold for Hall of Fame discussion, and nobody is certainly just average.

So it’s remarkable that, through their modern history, the Phillies have employed such a large collection of above-average, non-elite catchers who have helped to define that team’s specific era.

Now we come to the end of yet another era, that of a world championship and five postseason appearances. Ruiz has been the steady force during this era, accruing a 20.6 WAR over 10 seasons. We’re seeing the transition in real time, as Cameron Rupp has started 12 of the team’s 21 games so far in August. In July Rupp started 13 of 25 games, and in June he started 13 of 27 games.

Part of this shift is Ruiz’s poor numbers since May 22. In those 43 games (164 plate appearances), Ruiz is hitting .188 with a .267 OBP and .278 SLG.

But Rupp has played his way into the job. Since June 19 – a 31-game stretch of 120 plate appearances – Rupp is hitting .252 with a .300 OBP and .414 SLG. His power has come around in that time; he’s hit all five of his home runs during this period, and like the one we saw Monday night against the Mets, he has enormous power potential.

Now, yes, that kind of offense isn’t life-changing. A few mammoth dingers don’t necessarily make Rupp the everyday starting catcher in 2016. But Rupp’s value is higher because of his defensive ability; he’s caught 13 of 36 runners stealing, good for 36 percent. That’s higher than the 28 percent league average and puts him between Derek Norris of San Diego and Jason Castro of Houston. His defensive WAR of 0.8 is good for 11th in baseball among catchers; Miami’s J.T. Realmuto is just ahead of Rupp with an 0.9 dWAR, and he’s accrued nearly 300 more chances at the dish than Rupp.

Defensive WAR isn’t perfect, but it gives comparative measure and justifies what we’re seeing in action. Rupp is a solid fielding catcher with a strong arm – that much is true.

Then there’s Rupp’s framing. The process of tracking pitch framing is still relatively new, but early numbers indicate Rupp is a far better framer than Ruiz at this point in his career.

The StatCorner Catcher Report measures +Calls, or the number of strike calls that go a team’s way because of framing; Ruiz is at -100, meaning many more calls have gone against us when he catches. His RAA (runs above average saved by his framing) is at -13.3, second worst in baseball.

Rupp, meanwhile, is much less damaging. He’s only at a -5 in +Calls, and his RAA is just -0.6. At this young age, working with so many young pitchers, Rupp has much more promise than Ruiz, who has, for the most part, been a poor framer. In 2014 he rated at a -10.3 RAA (Rupp, in limited time, had a -1.1). And in 2013 Ruiz rated at a -6.6 RAA.

All this is to say that the days of Carlos Ruiz manning home plate exclusively are over. The Phillies are paying Chooch $8.5 million next year (the end of a debatable but acceptable three-year contract), so they likely aren’t looking at a valuable trading commodity anymore.

What’s more likely is that Rupp takes over exclusive starting catcher duties in 2016, allowing Ruiz to spell him breaks and provide leadership in the clubhouse and beyond. It’s possible that by 2017, one of Jorge Alfaro and Andrew Knapp – both worthy prospects capable of starting down the line – could be ready to take over the dish. But you never know – if Rupp plays as an above-average defender and framer with surprising power, maybe we’re already looking at the next era in Phillies catching lore.

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