What is the plan for Andrew Knapp in 2021?

MLB: SEP 23 Phillies at Nationals
WASHINGTON, DC – SEPTEMBER 23: Philadelphia Phillies catcher Andrew Knapp (5) flips his bat during the Philadelphia Phillies versus the Washington Nationals on September 23, 2020 at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire)

When the Phillies and Andrew Knapp avoided arbitration earlier this month with a one-year $1.1 million deal, it solidified that Knapp stay in Philadelphia for the 2021 season. What remains to be seen is the role the 29-year-old catcher will take.

Andrew Knapp is a two-fold back-up for J.T. Realmuto.

1. He’ll back up Realmuto if the Phillies re-sign him.

2. He’ll replace Realmuto if they don’t.

Knapp 2020

Andrew Knapp took a major step forward in the 2020 season. In the previous two seasons, under manager Gabe Kapler and hitting coach John Mallee, Knapp was looking to optimize on the launch angle trend. That style of hitting looks to simply state “hit dingers or strike out trying.” As such, all of Knapp’s other numbers dwindled. In 2020, under Joe Girardi and Joe Dillon, Knapp simplified his batting stance and approach. With an even stance and better pitch selection, Knapp saw an increase in his overall slash line and even found himself hitting home runs at an increased rate.

YearSO%BB%AB/HRHard Hit %Launch AngleExpected BA

In only 33 games, Knapp also matched his career-high in RBI’s (15) last season. The point? Andrew Knapp looked the best he ever had in 2020. His challenge moving forward will be to see if he can sustain his improved numbers over the sample size of a whole season.

Free Agent Catchers

It goes without saying now that Dave Dombrowski’s Phillies need to bring back J.T. Realmuto. But that does not make it a guarantee.

Everyone wants him on board and loves him. Sometimes these things take a long time to work themselves out.”

Dave Dombrowski | Interview on 94 WIP

Other teams will swarm at the chance to get the best catcher in baseball, “financial woes” be damned. Most recently, the Washington Nationals have been connected to Realmuto.

Behind Realmuto, the rest of the catchers market has gone fast. Within the last week, James McCann signed a deal with Steve Cohen’s New York Mets, and Mike Zunino re-signed with the Tampa Bay Rays. Beyond Realmuto, there are no young, high-quality starting catchers available.

If the Phillies do not bring home Realmuto, there are some low-tier catchers who are on the back end of their careers that the Phillies could bring in. Tyler Flowers (35) and Yadier Molina (38) are key among them. But at that point, the Phillies would be much better off spending that money on relievers than bringing in an aging player at the most taxing position on the diamond.

What other Catchers do the Phillies have?

2020 gave Phillies fans a glimpse into the future as catching prospect Rafael Marchan made an appearance in three games, tallying four hits in eight at-bats. The 21-year-old catcher is not ready for a full-time stint in Major League Baseball. Since his signing in 2016, he has maxed out at 85 games played in a single year in 2019. The workload would have increased in 2020, but instead, Marchan found himself getting work on the Phillies’ COVID-19 taxi squad. Until Marchan has started over 100 games in a season at the AA or AAA level, he will not be ready to catch full-time in the Majors.

So it’s really just Knapp. That’s the list. No one else in the Phillies’ organization is ready. Meaning that the Phillies NEED to re-sign Realmuto.

But in an off-season where the entire franchise direction has changed, the Phillies just might look to Knapp to step up at catcher while they prioritize other needs. And in the end, the Phillies’ true view of Andrew Knapp has been revealed: a two-fold back-up for J.T. Realmuto.

Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire