Knapp adding versatility to big league credentials

Knapp adding versatility to big league credentials

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- It came during one of those flurries of lineup changes that happen during Grapefruit League games. In the top of the seventh inning of the Phillies' game against the Braves on Saturday at Spectrum Field, Andrew Knapp entered the game as a defensive replacement at first base.

Which would be unremarkable except for this: He's a catcher by trade, good enough to have won the 2015 Paul Owens Award, emblematic of being deemed the best player in the Phillies' farm system.

It wasn't the first time this spring that manager Pete Mackanin has used Knapp at first, either. He made a similar move on Feb. 27 against the Rays.

That's because the Phillies have an opening for a backup catcher behind Cameron Rupp and a reserve at first behind Tommy Joseph. And there's a good chance that Knapp could fill both roles.

Another thing that's changed is that the Phillies got catcher Jorge Alfaro in the trade that sent ace left-hander Cole Hamels to the Rangers at the 2015 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Alfaro is ranked as the Phillies' third-best prospect by MLBPipeline.com, while Knapp is No. 14.

"From what I've seen, [Knapp] looks like a pretty solid catcher," Mackanin said. "He hasn't really been tested that much, but I like the way he looks behind the plate. He's quiet. He gives a nice target. I think he calls a pretty good game. He's a switch-hitter and he can play first base, so he's got a good chance."

Knapp hasn't had much experience at first base. He played there a little during his sophomore year at Cal, a little in the 2015 Arizona Fall League and early work this spring. But he's more than willing to give it a shot.

Knapp on Phillies' 7th inning

"I think there's a spot open," he said after driving in the game-winning run against the Braves. "I think it helps that I can hit from both sides of the plate, and [having] the versatility to be able to pinch-hit and go in at either of those spots helps a lot.

"Catching is definitely still my priority, but if I get to the big leagues [filling two roles], it's definitely a blessing to be able to be on the club and contribute in any way. And then, down the line, try to win the starting job."

Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.