J.T. Realmuto is developing into one of the best in the game, even on the basepaths.
Chances are you haven’t watched a Miami Marlins game this season. I’ve been offered tickets to Baltimore Orioles, Washington Nationals, Philadelphia Phillies and San Diego Padres games this season, all from different people who gave me the same exact reason as to why they were trying to unload their tickets for free: the Marlins were coming to town. It’s unfortunate, because the Marlins have one of the game’s most elite (and least talked about) players in Major League Baseball, J.T. Realmuto.
Realmuto has always been praised for his elite defensive abilities behind the plate. He has the quickest Pop Time in the majors (minimum five attempts) at 1.88 seconds, one of the quickest exchange times (0.67 seconds), and has the third-strongest arm in the league, averaging 87.3 mph on his throws.
A deeper dive into his advanced catching metrics point to a drop from last season but still show an above-average defensive catcher. For example, according to Baseball Prospectus and their FRAA (Fielding Runs Above Average) mark, Realmuto is worth 2.0 runs above average (25th in the league). That’s a big drop from his 16.1 mark last year, however, it’s still a big positive.
Playing in his age-27 season, Realmuto has ramped up his production at the plate. Here’s a comparison of his 2017 numbers to 2018.
Overall, J.T. Realmuto ranks 15th in wRC+, 17th in WAR and in the top-20 in wOBA, SLG and AVG. He ranks first among catchers (minimum 200 PA) in all of those categories, leading Wilson Contreras and Yasmani Grandal in WAR by 1.1 wins.
All of that is impressive, but there’s something else that Realmuto is really good at. The 27-year-old catcher is a game changer on the basepaths. Using Fangraphs’ BSR (Baserunning Runs) metric, Realmuto has been worth 2.6 runs above average this season. Gary Sanchez is second on the list at 0.3. Francisco Cervelli and Yan Gomes are the only other catchers on the list that net a positive amount of runs.
Outstanding baserunning adds another dimension to J.T. Realmuto and his game.
In his first three seasons as a full-time catcher, Realmuto stole 8, 12 and 8 bases, respectively. He has just one stolen base in 2018 but has improved his BsR by more than a run this year.
Baseball Prospectus also gives Realmuto a 2.6 in their version of BsR, BRR. If you break BRR down further, you see what makes Realmuto such a great base runner.
BRR is broken down into a few components including GAR (advancement on non-hit ground balls), AAR (non-hit balls in the air), HAR (hits), SBR (stolen base) and OAR (wild pitches, passed balls, and balks).
Realmuto ranks 12th in the league in GAR, worth 2.06 runs above average and 31st in the league in HAR, worth 1.26 runs above average. According to Baseball Reference, Realmuto has yet to be caught out while making a baserunning play (OOB). For reference, BR lists the “league average per 600 plate appearances” at five OOB. Currently, Alex Bregman, Ketel Marte and Cameron Maybin lead the league with nine. He’s aggressive on the bases but doesn’t get caught. That’s a rare combination.
Moral of the story: J.T. Realmuto isn’t just one of the best catchers in baseball, he’s one of the best in baseball, period. There are still a few days left before the 2018 trade deadline, and Realmuto has said before that he wants to be traded. If anyone does want to pony up (Washington Nationals?), they will have to unload a haul of prospects for his services.
Maybe you should check out a Miami Marlins game. You’re missing one of the game’s best.