PhilsMonth! – The Rise of Cameron Rupp


Welcome to PhilsMonth! A fun* look back at the past month for everyone’s favorite baseball team – the Philadelphia Phillies!

* Amount of fun experienced may vary

Super Important Storyline of August: Youth is Served

The Phillies’ youth movement is in full swing. At the beginning of the season, critics complained that the Phillies were lousy, and thanks to the many older players, there wasn’t much hope for improvement. The Phillies may still be lousy, but they certainly can’t be considered old anymore.

Aug 9, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard (6) hits an RBI double during the first inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

In the regular lineup, the only “old” player is really Ryan Howard, and even he seems to be in a straight platoon with Darin Ruf these days. (Not that Ruf should be considered young, but he is under 30.) The pitching staff is just as young. While Aaron Harang continues to be a part of the rotation, he’s surrounded by rookies Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, Adam Morgan, and Alec Asher.

Another older playerCarlos Ruiz might be considered the team’s starting catcher, but over the past few months, he’s been transitioning into more of a reserve role. That’s partly because his numbers are way down this season, but also because the man who was serving as his backup has begun to assert himself.

Featured Phillie of the Month: Cameron Rupp

Cameron Rupp has never been viewed as a top prospect in the Phillies’ system. Over the past few years, the team felt that either Sebastian Valle or Tommy Joseph was more likely to be the team’s catcher of the future. Rupp was always considered more of a fringe prospect.

Aug 1, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp (29) hits a three RBI home run during the fourth inning against the Atlanta Braves at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Despite doubts that he’d ever be a viable major league starter, Rupp has slowly progressed up the Phillies’ system. He had a reputation as a strong defender, but there were concerns that he’d never be a good hitter. He had trouble making contact, and despite his large size, he didn’t hit with enough power to compensate.

The first half of the season, Rupp didn’t do much to disprove those worries. He had a .618 OPS in the first half of the season, with only one home run through July. Naturally, once the calendar turned to August, Rupp suddenly turned into a fearsome power hitter.

Rupp hit seven homers in August, and it isn’t clear why. Was it just a fluky run that will likely disappear once pitchers adjust to him? Or has he finally unlocked the power potential that his large size indicated he possessed.

Thanks to the presence of Jorge Alfaro and Andrew Knapp in the minor leagues, Rupp still might not be the team’s catcher of the future. But at the very least, he seems to have played himself into the starting job for 2016.

Phlashback of Phutility: Mike Ryan

Many Phillies fans will remember “Irish” Mike Ryan as the Phillies longtime, feisty bullpen coach. Every time the Phillies were involved in an on-field scuffle, Ryan would come charging out of the bullpen ready to scrap.

Long before that, he was the team’s starting catcher. He had a reputation as a good handler of pitchers, which is good, because he couldn’t hit at all. Ryan batted .204 with 12 home runs in 1969, and sadly that was his best offensive season. According to Wikipedia, of all non-pitchers with at least 1000 at bats, Ryan has the second lowest batting average in history.

He eventually realized that if he had a future in baseball, it would be as a coach. He was much more successful in that regard, spending 16 seasons as part of the Phillies’ staff.

Secondary Storyline: Odubel Herrera – Superstar?

When the Phillies selected Odubel Herrera in the Rule 5 draft, they were hoping he’d play well enough for them to justify keeping him on the roster for the entire season. As it turns out, they may have actually uncovered a future star.

Aug 26, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies center fielder Odubel Herrera (37) commits an error during the first inning against the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Early in the season, Herrera showed flashes of talent, but also showed some worrisome tendencies. For instance, he was a bit of a free swinger. By that, I mean he walked about once a month. (For those who don’t understand the importance of on base percentage, just know that’s not really an ideal rate.)

In August, Herrera has walked at a much more acceptable rate of 7.9% of his plate appearances. While that isn’t going to win him any on-base percentage titles (Is that a thing?) it does give hope that he could be a legitimate top of the order hitter.

He still makes some mistakes in the outfield, but that’s understandable considering this is his first real experience out there. He seems to have the tools necessary to be an above average defender in centerfield. (Then again, so does Domonic Brown.)

Much like Rupp, Herrera appears to have at least played himself into a starting job for the 2016 season.

Statistical Oddity

Tweet of Importance

It’s a good thing they got rid of that bum Chase Utley. He was obviously holding them back.

The Bad News

The Phillies have five games against the Mets in September. Unfortunately, they haven’t done very well against the Mets this season, so those games could be painful. If the Mets win the National League East, they’ll be able to point to their performance against the Phillies as a big reason.

The Good News

The talent difference between the Phillies and Mets isn’t so vast that the Mets should be able to dominate like this, so I figure that the Phillies are due for a win or two. Maybe the Phillies can rack up a few victories and help knock the Mets out of the playoffs?

Looking Ahead

Now that the Phillies’ roster is loaded with youth, it bears watching how these young players hold up down the stretch. Will they start to wear down after a long season? Will they wilt when facing teams that are actually fighting for playoff spots? It should be quite fascinating.

Next: Why isn't there an ESPN Philadelphia?

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