Fantasy Baseball: What Kind of Value Does Cameron Rupp Have?
It's been quite a rise to playing time behind the plate for Philadelphia Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp.
Since the 2015 decline and eventual trade last season of Carlos Ruiz, Rupp has solidified himself as the primary catcher. Even after that trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers, he found himself splitting time with A.J. Ellis, but this year should be different.
Entering his third full season with the club, this is likely Rupp's last opportunity to prove his worth as more than just a placeholder for the future. He did have a sneaky-good 2016, tallying career highs in games (105), plate appearances (419) and triple slash (.252/.303/.447). That .447 slugging percentage and .752 OPS ranked fourth among qualified catchers, but can he be relevant in mixed fantasy baseball leagues this season?
A Diamond in the Rupp
It's easy to see that Rupp's counting stats increased due to more playing time, as he notched new personal bests in home runs (16), runs scored (36) and RBI's (54). However, he was only one of 16 catchers to register 400-plus plate appearances last year.
Amongst this group, the Phillies backstop also found himself among the top performers at his position in various areas, such as homers and slugging percentage, but also wOBA (.321) and wRC+ (99).
As MLB.com's Todd Zolecki notes, he's also produced some interesting data caught by Statcast.
Of 246 hitters with at least 200 at-bats, Rupp's average exit velocity of 92.2 miles per hour ranked 29th. He also ranked sixth at his position with 24 barrels, which are balls where the combination of exit velocity and launch angle leads to the best possible outcome. A barrel typically leads to at least a .500 batting average and 1.500 slugging percentage.
There is some cause for concern, though. Even though it has been noted that an injury probably effected Rupp's production at the dish.
While Rupp's hard-hit rate increased from 28.4% in 2015 to 34.4% in 2016, his ground-ball rate also spiked (from 42.7% to 48.2%). Conversely, his fly-ball rate dropped by nearly four percentage points despite the increase in homers. That trend doesn't seem to be sustainable.
numberFire's MLB projections tab Rupp for an nF score of just -0.93, but it's also being based off an expectation of 380 plate appearances that would lead to 13 home runs 49 RBI's, 36 runs scored and a .704 OPS. Those numbers would virtually all be a step back from what he did last year. These are baseline projections, and his situation is much different than 2016 since Ruiz and Ellis are no longer in the picture.
It's reasonable to expect Rupp to see an increase from the 419 plate appearances he accumulated just a season ago, and he's expecting the same.
"I'm probably going to play a few more games, so the numbers can be better because I'll have more opportunities," Rupp said in the spring training interview. "162 games, that's what I'm preparing for."
For those playing in a mixed fantasy baseball league, using Rupp could be ideal when your elite catcher is taking the day off. He can also be used in the utility spot when the Phillies are expected to face a left-handed pitcher (he slashed .324/.361/.632 against southpaws in 68 at-bats last year).
Rupp currently has an average draft position of 246.23 according to NFBC drafts and is the 16th catcher coming off the board. If he gets the playing time -- and it looks like he will -- there's a lot of value to be had, and his power could give him a legitimate shot at being a top-10 fantasy catcher.