Phillies

Phillies

Being the backup catcher to J.T. Realmuto is kind of like being Jim Sorgi or Curtis Painter and standing on the sidelines for the Colts all those years when Peyton Manning took every snap. The bulk of your work comes behind the scenes.

Realmuto barely sits. He has started 114 of the Phillies' 135 games this season, meaning he has started just a tad less than six out of every seven games in an era when the majority of catchers don't play more than four or five times per week.

The Phillies have not had to use Andrew Knapp much this season. When they have, they have not gotten enough production. The Phillies like Knapp's familiarity with the pitching staff, his plate selection and his arm. But there are obvious holes in his game. He's hit .198 each of the last two seasons. His OPS is 39 percent below league average over that span.

Enter Deivy Grullon, a call-up Sunday from Triple A. Grullon will not see many — if any — starts in September. The Phillies need to ride Realmuto as much as they can, and even when Realmuto sits, they'd probably prefer Knapp's defense to Grullon's right now. 

But what about 2020? Could Grullon be Realmuto's backup? Minor-league numbers don't always translate, particularly for undisciplined hitters, but Grullon's offensive skill set could be more helpful to a team trying to win.

"He was a guy that in Reading last year, 2018, really opened some eyes with his power output, really just the body of work he had offensively in aggregate," GM Matt Klentak said Sunday. "He was a guy that we discussed adding to the roster last November and ultimately decided against it. He's a guy we've been watching carefully this year as he's had another solid offensive season. I think he's earned a right to come up to this level and see what he can do. 

 

"Now realistically, J.T. Realmuto plays virtually every day so I don't know that there will be a ton of opportunities for Grullon. But if he merely comes up and gets a taste of the big-league clubhouse and exposure to this level for a month with a few at-bats and maybe a start here and there, we think that can be really important for him moving forward. 

"Also wouldn't discount the possibility that his right-handed bat off the bench could see some big opportunities over the course of the month. He can swing it. He's earned it. It'll be fun to have him up here and I'm really proud of him, happy for him that he's earned this after a long minor-league journey."

Typically, a team wants strong defense out of its backup catcher. There are some backup catchers who are defensively challenged but have power. Grullon's offense is ahead of his defense at this point. From 2017 to 2019, his batting average, on-base percentage, OPS and RBI totals have increased each year. He hit .283 with 21 homers and an .851 OPS in 457 plate appearances with the IronPigs this season.

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