Phils' 2d-round pick a switch-hitting catcher

Recently promoted Maikel Franco might be the Phillies' third baseman of the future.
Recently promoted Maikel Franco might be the Phillies' third baseman of the future. (BRIAN WESTERHOLT / Four Seam Images)
Posted: June 24, 2013

Andrew Knapp, the Phillies' second-round draft choice from the University of California, is a rarity, a switch-hitting catcher.

Just beginning his career with short-season Williamsport, Knapp comes from baseball roots. His father, Mike, was a former catcher and 11-year minor-league player.

Yet it was his mother, Julie, who suggested that he switch-hit.

"My mom was the first one to switch me around after seeing my dad only hit righthanded," Knapp said by phone. He said he made the move when he was 12.

This past college season, Knapp hit .350 with 16 doubles, eight home runs, and 41 RBIs in 54 games.

"We think he is a middle-of-the-order, offensive-type switch hitter with tremendous makeup," said Marti Wolever, Phillies assistant general manager, amateur scouting.

Wolever says that Knapp has to sharpen his defensive skills, and Knapp won't argue with that. He was a catcher in high school, but didn't catch much his first two seasons at Cal, spending time at first base, in the outfield, and at designated hitter because of upperclassmen behind the plate.

"I grew so much playing all those games at catcher this year," Knapp said. "I think it will help me this season."

Knapp was the 53d overall selection, signing for the assigned slot value of $1,033,100.

In his first week with Williamsport, he has been a catcher and a DH.

"There is no reason for anyone to have to pinch-hit for me," he said. "I feel confident hitting from both sides of the plate."

The Phillies have solid catchers in the system, but none who has been dominant at the plate.

Top prospects at third

Cody Asche has enjoyed a solid season at third base for triple-A Lehigh Valley, batting .271 with eight home runs and 42 RBIs entering the weekend, but the long-range future at the position likely belongs to Maikel Franco.

The 6-foot-1, 180-pound Franco was promoted from Clearwater to double-A Reading on Thursday and went 2 for 4 in his first game.

Franco won't turn 21 until August. He projects as a power bat and hit .299 with 23 doubles, 16 homers, and 52 RBIs in 65 games for Clearwater. He is also an accomplished defensive player with an extremely strong arm.

"He is somebody that we, as an organization, expect big things from," Reading manager Dusty Wathan said.

Asche is The Inquirer's No. 7-ranked Phillies prospect, while Franco is third.

Wathan added that it would be a pleasant problem if the Phillies one day are looking for playing time for both players.

"I think Cody, more than Franco, could switch positions," Wathan said.

Asche has played second base, and Wathan said first base and left field could be other options.

"Hopefully, in the future, that is a tough decision that we have to make," Wathan said.


Contact Marc Narducci at mnarducci@phillynews.com.

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