Lehigh Valley picks up another catcher
The Phillies have made a series of questionable moves this summer, with one of them coming last week when they signed catcher Nick Hundley.
While Hundley isn’t known for his offense, he’s been a strong defensive catcher and has thrown out just over the major league average of 26 percent of would-be base stealers over 12 seasons in the majors.
It never hurts to have a quality defensive catcher, but the Phillies already had three catchers on their Triple-A roster at Lehigh Valley.
Deivy Grullon is the only prospect among the bunch and has had a solid season, batting .282 with 17 home runs for LV. It’s thought that Grullon is the odds-on favorite to get a September call-up, but with this Phillies front office, you never know.
After all, Grullon will have to be added to the 40-man roster following the season to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. The Phillies sneaked him through last year’s draft, but he won’t make it through a second time.
In addition to Grullon, the IronPigs already have two veteran backups. Local favorite Matt McBride, who played high school ball at Liberty prior to moving on to Lehigh University, has been with the team for two seasons now. Rob Brantly is in his first season as an IronPig and had a short, one-day stint with the Phillies when J.T. Realmuto left the team for the birth of his daughter. Both have plenty of major league experience and both are adequate offensively and defensively with experience handling pitchers.
“It’s nice to have three catchers, not many teams have that luxury,” said IronPigs manager Gary Jones. “It lets you make some moves that you can’t normally make because you’re afraid of needing a catcher late in the game and you don’t have one to go to. Nick is a veteran guy and he’ll be able to learn our pitchers and work with them.”
Hundley’s arrival ultimately led to McBride coming up with one of those phantom injuries that puts a player on the IL when a team needs a roster spot.
In McBride’s case, it’s turf toe, which along with injuries like shin contusions and muscle tightness are code for ‘we needed a roster spot and didn’t have any way to create one other than faking an injury.’
Making the situation even more curious is the fact that the Phillies have one of the worst major league backup catchers – statistically speaking – in former IronPig Andrew Knapp, who is batting just .200 this season and is under the league fielding percentage and the percentage of runners thrown out stealing.
There have been calls throughout the season to replace Knapp with Brantly.
All of this makes Hundley’s signing interesting and puts in doubt whether Grullon will be the guy going to the majors when rosters expand on September 1. Will the Phillies instead go for one of the veteran catchers, since they figure to be looking for a playoff spot over the last month of the season and won’t have the opportunity to give Grullon on the job training in the majors. It also points to them not having confidence in either Brantly or McBride.
PUG-TASTIC... The IronPigs have been known for pulling together promotions that fans get excited about. Their supposed spelling error that made them the IronPugs for Monday night’s game has been one of the best, especially in terms of ticket sales.
About 10 days prior to the game, when the promotion was announced, there were approximately 5,500 tickets sold for Monday’s game. The promotion nearly doubled the ticket sales between them and first pitch with a capacity crowd of 10,100 fans packed into the seats and a record number of dogs packed onto the grass berm in left center field.
WE’RE TALKING PLAYOFFS?... The IronPigs had a season-long four-game win streak snapped on Sunday in Indianapolis. Monday night was another blow to their playoff hopes when they lost to the Syracuse Mets 1-0. The ‘Pigs find themselves 6 ½ games behind Scranton-Wilkes/Barre with 14 games left on the schedule.
In terms of the wild-card, Lehigh Valley stands 9 ½ games behind Charlotte. The biggest problem is they would have a number of teams to climb over in either race.
The good news is they have seven left with Syracuse, which stands in front of them, and three with the RailRiders, who lead the division.