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Knapp ready to get back on field

June 18, 2013 - Mitch Rupert
By MITCH RUPERT

mrupert@sungazette.com

It's been a whirlwind couple of weeks for Andrew Knapp. From the end of his season at Cal, to being drafted in the second round of the Phillies, and eventually signing his contract, it's been quite the ride.

Knapp found comfort Saturday standing in the lush green grass of Bowman Field. The baseball field is his sanctuary. It's where everything makes sense and the off-the-field headaches which come along with the pro game go away. Baseball is what Knapp knows, it's what he loves.

And now, he's ready to begin his professional career with the Williamsport Crosscutters.

“All that off-the-field stuff is necessary, but I'm a baseball player and that's what I want to be doing,” Knapp said Saturday during Crosscutters media day. “So I'm really excited to be here and start.”

The draft was an exciting time for the 21-year old from Granite Bar, Calif. He had expectations of being selected high in the draft, especially after an impressive performance last summer in the Cape Cod Baseball League, the premier collegiate summer wood bat league in the country.

Knapp was a part of the Phillies string of up-the-middle players in the early rounds of the draft. The first five picks in the draft for Philadelphia were spent on either catchers, shortstops or center fielders. Knapp comes in as a raw, but athletic catcher, the best of the college crop in the draft.

His hopes, after hitting .350 with eight home runs and 41 RBIs as a junior for the Golden Bears, for the draft was to have his name called on the first day of the draft. Knapp's hopes came true when the Phillies made him the 53rd pick in the draft. He eventually signed for the recommended slot bonus of just over a million dollars.

“I grew up watching the draft and people announce the picks to the world, it's pretty cool,” Knapp said. “It was really awesome to be one of those guys that gets drafted on the first day.”

Knapp has become a complete hitter in the last year with an adjustment to his approach at the plate. He went from hitting just .253 in his first two years at Cal to hitting .293 in 40 games on the Cape, and then .350 this year at Cal.

He came to Cal as a dead-pull hitter from both sides of the plate. The change in his production came with the change to use all parts of the field from both sides of the plate. His spray chart from the Cape Cod League last summer is littered with hits, and even outs, all over the outfield.

“It came from maturing as a player. The first couple years in college you're so amped up because you want to hit .350,” Knapp said. “For me, being naturally right-handed, when I switched to left-handed, I was right-hand dominant so I liked to pull with that bottom hand. So I did a lot of top-hand work with the left hand and really started using the opposite field.”

It translated into more consistent contact and even a little more power. Although he profiles as an average power hitter as a professional, Knapp was fourth in the PAC-12 this year with eight home runs. That came after hitting eight in the Cape last summer in just 40 games.

He's not naïve enough to think he's turned into a Mike Piazza-like power hitter, but with the consistent contact may come more opportunities to drive the baseball.

“I know if I get one, I'll put a couple out. But I'm not trying to hit home runs by any means,” Knapp said. “If I'm going good, I'm going to hit a double in the gap. When I'm going good is when I can shoot a ball over the shortstop or second baseman's head and then run a little bit.”

The bat isn't the question for Knapp. He was drafted as a catcher after catching just one of his three seasons at Cal. He split time his last two years between right field and first base.

He's only been an everyday catcher since last summer. So he comes to the Phillies organization as a raw receiver. Where Knapp does feel comfortable and confident is throwing the ball.

He's been rated as being an above average thrower, but is still a work in progress as a catcher.

“I think I'm actually much better than I was just from catching and being back there every day,” Knapp said. “For me, coming out here and catching literally every single day and getting that experience is going to be huge.”

Getting comfortable receiving the baseball and blocking balls in the dirt is where most of Knapp's work needs to come. But Knapp is an athletic player with good hands and good feet.

He also has a good pedigree as his dad, Mike, was a catcher at Cal and for 11 years in the minors.

“It's all stuff that comes with experience and seeing pitches and learning how to catch certain pitchers,” Knapp said. “The throwing has always been pretty easy for me. With my God-given ability I've got a pretty good arm, but the footwork comes with that, too. That's the stuff we're going to work on every day out here and it'll help make me a better player.”

 
 

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