Cameron Rupp is one of the understated highlights to the Phillies' 2016 season thus far, proving to be a solid everyday option at catcher.
by Jack Kerwin | firstname.lastname@example.org
With 100 games to go, the Phillies …
► Remain in the rebuilding stages, the early ones. While it was fun and exciting to see the team defy all logic by hitting the quarter pole of this season at 24-17 despite having little pop and even less offensive efficiency, reality has hit home since, especially with the calendar mostly filled by the Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals the last couple weeks. Now 29-33 entering today’s late-afternoon series finale in D.C., they’re just about positioned to give up the pipe dream of competing for a playoff spot this year to focus on the more legit issue at hand, which is to develop a solid nucleus for years to come by continuing to play the “kids” already on the roster, giving the organization’s best prospects a shot as well, and forever developing the farm system – a must this club too often has discarded in its history for the sake of quick fixes, desperation and previous pipe dreams.
► Appear to have not one, but two potential stars in their current lineup. Neither of them are named Maikel Franco. While we’re all getting a little gaga over Tommy Joseph since his quick start finally seems to be setting the stage for an actual – and long overdue – goodbye to Ryan Howard, the real story thus far among the everyday players is the emergence of center fielder Odubel Herrera as a bona fide star. The guy can hit, run, field, throw and has shown some power and certainly possesses a body frame at a compact 5-foot-11, muscled-up 206 pounds that suggests he is capable of much more. He ranks among the NL’s top 10 in batting average, stolen bases, walks and on-base percentage while hitting out of the leadoff spot for the Phillies. Joseph, meanwhile, has been a revelation – for a month. Since making his first appearance on May 13, he has 7 homers in just 69 at-bats and is hitting .319. Should he keep up that pace, or even something close to it, Herrera would become Joseph’s top supporting actor and Howard a distant memory – even if he maintains a spot on the bench.
► Are not as well off on the mound as most had thought. The strong start, bolstered by a much better than expected effort by the starters, fooled many into believing the team was further along than it really is, or even could be. Fact is, we’re not talking about a group of hurlers that, as a collection of arms, is overly talented. Not when you have a guy such as Aaron Nola, lacking any serious “plus” pitch, being considered a top half of the rotation anchor. Granted, he is carrying a 2.98 ERA into mid-June, even after getting shelled on Saturday. But he doesn’t have big-time stuff. In fact, the only pitcher on the squad who does – Vince Velasquez – just got placed on the DL with a strained biceps in his right throwing arm.
► May have their catcher for the next decade. Seriously. Oh, Cameron Rupp may never make an all-star team, but the dude is a tough, quality ballplayer behind the plate and, now, at bat. Call me a sucker for old-school style, but am kinda partial to big, physical types who ain’t afraid of contact when collisions are possible, imminent or unavoidable. He’s hitting .270 right now and is solid on defense, possessing surprisingly quick feet and a good arm. Plus, he’s done a nice job handling a mostly unproven pitching staff.
In short, they’re showing some promise … and a lot of holes yet to fill.