A number of Phillies roster moves subsequently give 25-year-old Andrew Knapp a clear path to the Opening Day big league roster. Early this afternoon, the Phillies announced that 4 players would be leaving big league camp.
The first two are OF Roman Quinn and RHP Michael Mariot. Quinn was optioned and Mariot was assigned to minor league camp. Quinn will play every day in the outfield for the Iron Pigs. The other two players leaving camp are the big reasons why Knapp appears to have earned his way to a job. Veteran catchers Bryan Holaday and Ryan Hanigan, both non-roster invitees to spring training, were both granted their unconditional releases. They are now free to sign with another team that might need catching depth.
With the releasing of these two players, as well as the reassigning of Logan Moore to minor league camp a few days ago, all signs point to Andrew Knapp finally making it to the big leagues. He will be the backup catcher to the number one guy on the Phillies depth chart, Cameron Rupp.
Knapp was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2013 MLB draft by the Phillies out of the University of California. Knapp has hit for a .276 average across the minor leagues for the Phillies during his parts of 4 years down on the farm. He enjoyed his best season in the minors in 2015, in which he hit for a .308 average with 13 HR and 84 RBI during his time between the Single-A Clearwater Threshers and the Double-A Reading Fightin’ Phils.
He has appeared in 17 games for the Phillies this Spring, seeing time at both catcher and first base. His ability to play first might have given him the ultimate edge over veterans like Hanigan and Holaday. If you look at his stars over the course of spring training thus far, you will see just a .184 average, but he does have 2 home runs and 4 RBI to show for in his 38 at-bats thus far. That second home run came just yesterday off of Pirates RHP Josh Lindblom. It was part of a 5-run first inning for the Phils in which Maikel Franco also homered. 5 of those noted 7 hits this spring have come in the last 5 games, including 2 hits in yesterday’s game which included that 2-run shot.
Knapp turned it on at the right time, and it seems as though he did just enough to impress Pete Mackanin and company enough to give him the nod.
Knapp claims a spot on the Phillies bench alongside OF Aaron Altherr and IF Andres Blanco. Now it looks like 2 spots remain, and the contenders for those two spots seem to be Chris Coghlan, Brock Stassi, Daniel Nava, and Jesmuel Valentin. The Phils will likely be leaning towards Coghlan and one of Stassi or Nava to take those final two spots. Valentin has plenty of time to work his way onto the big league club, as he will see much more playing time in Triple-A.
A couple bullpen spots seem to still be up for grabs as well, as Luis Garcia, Joely Rodriguez, Alec Asher and Adam Morgan will be lobbying for the last two spots in the Phillies ‘pen over the next few days. The two players picked from that crew will be primed to join Jeanmar Gomez, Hector Neris, Pat Neshek, Joaquin Benoit and Edubray Ramos in the revamped Phillies bullpen.
With exactly one week to go before Opening Day, the Phillies still have some decisions to make, but one of those decisions seems as though it was made today. Welcome to the bigs, Andrew. May you and your wonderful mustache have much success with the Phils.
Stay with Phillies Nation for all things Phils this week leading up to Opening Day!
Photo: Jerry Espinoza (Via: Flickr)