An unsettled roster spot for the 2020 Philadelphia Phillies is the position of backup catcher, but the choice absolutely has to be Deivy Grullon.
But there isn’t any doubt that it has to be Deivy Grullon, a logical choice that is supported on numerous fronts.
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First and foremost, I can make an airtight argument for Grullon in just four words: Andrew Knapp is horrendous.
That’s all, end of article.
Hang on…I’m being told that I need to write much more. So here’s the rest.
With the sad state of the Phillies’ minor league system, which has been dry as a bone over the last few years, they owe it to themselves and their fans to see what a truly “homegrown prospect” can do for them at the major league level. And I’m speaking about the 23-year old Grullon, who still has a chance to develop. The 28-year old Knapp does not.
Working in Grullon’s favor here is the situation that he’d be stepping into. Major league jobs, by definition, will always have some pressure. But it doesn’t get much more sheltered than backing up the best catcher in the league.
The Phillies aren’t asking him to be the everyday backstop or anchor the lineup. Instead, he can learn on the job while making about 35 starts and getting around 150 plate appearances this year as he works on improving himself defensively and establishing relationships with the pitching staff.
You might be saying that anybody can do that job, even Knapp. But Grullon has a realistic chance of taking more of a share behind the plate as time goes by. Knapp never will. Assuming that the Phillies sign Realmuto to a long-term contract, they can put a plan in place where he would gradually cede starts behind the dish to Grullon in the coming years.
Perhaps they can even keep Realmuto in the lineup on such days by playing him at first base (after they trade Rhys Hoskins) or at DH (once the National League finally adopts it). At least one of those things is bound to happen, right?
For a possible road map here, let’s turn the clock back to Darren Daulton. Before Dutch was beloved by all, he spent four years from 1985 to 1988 as a backup, never collecting more than 181 plate appearances in any of those years.
Finally, in 1989, the Phillies handed over the catching reins to the 28-year old Daulton, who managed to stay healthy in four of the five following years as he became a team leader and productive player.
Yes, this example is very dated. But I think that it shows how, in the right situation, a player can realize his potential even if he spends his first few seasons in a limited role while working on his game behind the scenes. Maybe that can be Grullon, a work in progress, but a player who clearly has the talent.
Again, Andrew Knapp does not.
He will never be anything more than a sub-replacement level player who could MAYBE give your team 40 starts without totally killing it. But you can get that anywhere. Why not let the kid have a shot? He’s a wild card at this point, but it could be rewarding for both player and team for years to come.
The Phillies already messed up by only allowing Grullon to start two of the team’s final eight games last season after Realmuto was shut down. Now it’s time to give him an actual chance.
Deivy Grullon is far from a finished project, but he’s the kind of gamble that the Phillies need to take instead of playing it safe (and terrible) with Andrew Knapp or some stopgap veteran who won’t provide anything long-term.