Don’t Overlook Cameron Rupp
People have been very excited about Jorge Alfaro, the catching prospect the Phillies received from Texas in the Cole Hamels. This has been a fruitful trade so far, as Alec Asher and Jerad Eickoff already seeing action in the major leagues, with Nick Williams close to a call-up from triple A. Cole Hamels has been having an excellent year for Texas at 12-3 with an ERA of 2.89. His secondary numbers suggest that success may not last (FIP over 4 and a fairly high WHIP, although he has brought that number down over the past few weeks), but maybe it will. It was the right trade at the time, because many of Hamels starts would have been wasted on this feeble offense the Phillies have, and the Phillies got a number of promising young players.
Alfaro, as I have mentioned, is one of them. Recently I heard Angelo Cataldi say that Alfaro will be in Philadelphia in two years. There was also some talk of the Phillies trading Rupp because they have Alfaro in the system. Now it may be true that Alfaro will make it to Philadelphia in 2018, but any assumption that he will be the starting catcher is way too premature. First, Rupp is having an excellent year. His slash line is .278/.329/.502, which is good for anyone, let alone a catcher. Finding a catcher who can also hit is not an easy thing to do. The percentage of base runners he’s caught stealing is down from the previous two years at 24%, but that’s not horrible either, plus he’s working with a lot of young pitchers who may not be doing a good job of holding runners on first base. One might say that he’s playing over his head this year and will come down to earth. That is possible, because he hasn’t hit like this really at any point before and his BABIP is a little on the high side. However, he was also a high draft pick (third round), and he’s hitting the ball a little harder this year. His exist velocity average is among the highest in the National League. Let’s not forget that Carlos Ruiz was never a hitter in the minors either until he started playing full time in the majors. Rupp has also been praised for his leadership skills, something important for a young team to have.
There’s no doubt that Alfaro is an exciting prospect. His hitting statistics in the minors have been solid, if not that spectacular (although he’s having a very nice year this year at the plate). He certainly could stand to walk more as he is average less than a quarter of a walk per game, but his on-base percentage is a respectable .330 this season. Alfaro’s throwing arm has gotten him most of the attention and he’s thrown out a very impressive 42% of base stealers this year. However, AA is a long way from Philadelphia. It may very well be the Alfaro has another good year in AAA next year, but it is way too early to start showing Rupp the door or granting Alfaro the title of “future starter at catcher for the Phillies”. The last thing they should do is trade Rupp, assuming Andrew Knapp or Jorge Alfaro will soon step in to do the job.