The Miami Marlins have a hidden gem stowed away behind home plate. J.T. Realmuto ranked third among all Major League Catchers in WAR last year, and did so very quietly. He’s not flashy. He doesn’t hit dingers like Mike Piazza or throw people out like Pudge Rodriguez. Realmuto knows who he is, and he plays that way.
Realmuto is a solid hitter who will make contact and keep his strikeouts to a minimum, but he’s just scratching the surface of his potential at the plate. If you look at his peripheral numbers you see that in 2016 he struck out a solid 18.3% of the time, and is following it up this year with an even more solid 16%. I think this is being caused by greater plate discipline. His walk rate has jumped from 5.1% last year all the way to 9% this year, and that has a big part to do with the fact that he is not chasing as many pitches out of the zone. In his third full season he seems to be getting a better understanding of the strike zone, which in turn has led to a 5.4% decrease in chasing balls out of the zone.
Realmuto already brings great value to the Marlins. A catcher who can hit .300 is a rare commodity. A catcher who draws his walks while hitting .300 is even more valuable. As long as he can keep trending in the right direction with his eye and discipline his average will get even better, and his walk rate should continue to climb.
As a catcher he is no Ivan Rodriguez or Yadier Molina, but he does handle himself quite adequately behind the plate. He finished eighth in 2016 by throwing out 35.4% of runners and currently sits 10th by throwing out a solid 33.3%.
He could limit his passed balls and improve his pitch framing, though.
He was in the top 10 in passed balls allowed in both 2015 and 2016, and costs his team about 1.55 strikes per game with his pitch framing. His defensive metrics have him as an average catcher with -6 defensive runs saved over the course of 3 seasons, but the difference between having a bad catcher and an average catcher is huge for a pitching staff. Pitchers don’t throw no-hitters unless they have a good relationship with their catcher. I’m sure Edinson Volquez would back me up on that one.
So who is J.T. Realmuto? He is a player who gets the job done across the board. Whether it be with his bat or behind the dish. But most importantly he is young. He is going to keep improving, and he has the athleticism to improve on his deficiencies behind the plate. If he can get that walk rate into the teens and become an above average defender he will become a perennial all-star at one of the most shallow positions in baseball.
Just remember you heard it here.