The Philadelphia Phillies improved almost every position in the offseason but the one place where they stood pat was first base.
With new reports emerging, it seems like the Philadelphia Phillies have a plan for first base moving forward. Tommy Joseph had a great season mashing 21 homers in only 347 plate appearances but the team needs insurance for him at first. Joseph has a long injury history that pushed him from his natural position at catcher to first base and as he enters his first full season in the majors, it’s tough to envision him playing in more than two-thirds of the team’s games.
So who gets those extra starts at first? Going into the offseason it was expected to add a corner outfielder who is capable of playing first base like Brandon Moss but with the additions of Micheal Saunders and Howie Kendrick that didn’t happen. Kendrick is capable of playing some first base but I’m sure that the Phillies would rather not see him there.
Those extra starts could end up going to an unlikely candidate, Andrew Knapp. The young catcher is blocked behind the plate thanks to Cameron Rupp who had a breakout season last year. But while Rupp is the starter, the backup position is Knapps to win thanks to the departure of A.J. Ellis.
Knapp is expected to have the edge over fellow catching prospect Jorge Alfaro due to his defense but sitting on the bench wouldn’t help his long term development. Since there is no reason to move on from Rupp at the moment, some situation where the Philadelphia Phillies split Knapp’s starts between catcher and first base would make complete sense for 2017. The Phillies can get a longer look at Knapp in the lineup while figuring out who eventually gets moved out of the trio of Knapp, Rupp, and Alfaro.
Phillies beat writer Matt Breen reported that Knapp will spend some time during Spring Training at first base, where he last played during his college days at Cal-Berkley. It makes complete sense for the Philadelphia Phillies and for Knapp who will look to capitalize on this chance to beat out nonroster invitees Ryan Hanigan and Bryan Holaday. He also has the plus of being a switch hitter.
It’s an important year for Knapp but all signs point to him breaking camp with the Philadelphia Phillies. He has experience catching most of the guys on the roster and when the arms currently in Triple-A make the team Knapp’s knowledge of their pitching styles will be more important. But for the time being this is a grat chance for him to improve his game calling under Rupp who learned from one of the best in Carlos Ruiz.