When I go to minor league baseball games I always look around and try to project who will some day be playing in a major league uniform. Cameron Rupp is one of the few current Clearwater Thresher’s position players that I see some day in a Phillies uniform at Citizens Bank Park. Right now the Phillies have one of the hottest hitters in baseball catching for them in Carlos Ruiz. They also might have one of the hottest hitting catchers in the minor leagues as well in Cameron Rupp.
In Thursday nights game against the Lakeland Flying Tigers at Bright House, Rupp went two for four with a double and a home run. His homer was his sixth of the season. With that bomb, he has already surpassed the five long balls he hit all of last year at Lakewood. In just the first seven games of the second half of the Florida State League season he is hitting .381 with two homers and a 1.297 OPS. Most importantly he throwing runners out at a 35% pace this season, a career high.
Rupp,, who was a third round draft pick back in 2010 out of the University of Texas, always reminds me of a former Phillies backup catcher from back in the day Todd Pratt. Like Pratt did, Rupp provides the pitchers with a good frame of the strike zone. In the game Thursday night, I thought starting pitcher Brody Colvin threw his best game of the season in pitching seven shutout innings, striking out nine but most importantly he threw strikes and issued no walks.
From watching the farm system this year, the battle for the catcher of the future is between Sebastian Valle at Reading who is the same height as Rupp but smaller in build and will turn 22 years old late next month and the broader Rupp who is 23 years old and in his third season in the Phillies organization. Both Rupp and Valle have been selected as All Star catchers in their respective leagues this season. How they do in the second half of the season will be crucial for both of them.
Though Valle is on the 40 man roster I like Rupp better. In the minor league camp this spring I watch a batting practice home run hitting contest on Schmidt Field among the catchers and Rupp consistently out drove Valle. The key will be the second half of this season. If Rupp can put up big numbers, I can project him jumping over Valle and becoming the starting catcher for the 2013 season at AAA Lehigh Valley. To be fair I have seen Rupp play about 25 games this season but I have only seen Valle play twice on Milb-TV. I am looking forward to see Valle play a game in person for Reading in a couple of weeks.
The Phillies have Carlos Ruiz under contract for only one more season. After next year Chooch will become a free agent. Who knows what will happen but by the 2014 season I can see Cameron Rupp being in a position, if they do not re-sign Ruiz, to be in the catching mix for the Phillies if he can continue to dominate both at the plate and behind the plate as he has done so far, especially after the first week of play in the second half of the FSL season.