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February 26, 2020

Phillies season preview: How big an advantage is having the best catcher in baseball?

Spring training is starting to ramp up, as the Phillies are currently both tuning up to make a run at the playoffs in 2020 whilst also honing down their roster to the best 26 men they have to field a team when they return from Clearwater.

So it's as good a time as any to ramp things up here at PhillyVoice too. As the March 26 season opener against the Marlins approaches, we'll break down everything you need to know to get ready for one of the most anticipated Phillies seasons ever.

Let's take a look at catcher...

Scouting report

Here's our scouting report on Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto: He is good. Very, very, very good.

In 2019, he set career highs in games played, home runs, RBI, walks and slugging percentage. He threw out 43 base runners, a 46.7 percent clip, the best in the majors. He was an All-Star and the catcher selected as both the NL Silver Slugger and Gold Glove winner. 

Realmuto is the best at his position, and after his arbitration hearing awarded him just $10 million (a record for a catcher, but less than the $12.4 million he asked for), he is incredibly underpaid. The Phillies will be doing everything in their power to ink him to a longterm deal before spring training ends.

His backup is Andrew Knapp, who is a very light-hitting back up with limited skills as a pinch hitter. He is cheap and has experience and can handle a pitching staff, and for whatever reason, Philly is comfortable with him playing behind the biggest workhorse at the position.

NL East ranking

There is just one change in the NL East as far as starting catchers go compared to last season — Travis d'Arnaud will be taking the reins from Brian McCann in Atlanta. Aside from that, Philadelphia has a clear superiority at the position (a nice change, as their pitching staff is near the bottom of the division).

Here's a look at the catching landscape in the NL East for 2020:

TeamCatcher (age) 2019 stats2020 proj  Career WAR
Phillies J.T. Realmuto (28).275, 25 HR, 
83 RBI
.272, 22 HR, 
73 RBI
BravesTravis d'Arnaud (31).251, 16 HR, 
69 RBI
.248, 17 HR, 
62 RBI
NationalsKurt Suzuki (36).264, 17 HR, 
63 RBI
.261, 18 HR, 
61 RBI
MetsWilson Ramos (32).288, 14 HR,
 73 RBI
.278, 17 HR, 
74 RBI 
MarlinsJorge Alfaro (26) .262, 18 HR, 
57 RBI
.267, 17 HR, 
56 RBI

Stat and projection-wise, the division is pretty solid offensively as far as backstops go. Realmuto's defense is what truly separates him (as well as his power — he had at least seven more homers and 10 more RBI than everyone else last year).

Phillies' future

The future at catcher begins and ends with Realmuto. Assuming he is extended in the next few weeks, he'll be here alongside Bryce Harper and Aaron Nola for quite some time, as the core of the team.

The top catching prospect in the system, if you were wondering, is Rafael Marchan, a 21-year-old who has not risen past the Single-A level yet. Following him is 24-year-old Deivy Grullon who hit 21 homers in Triple-A last year. Grullon is blocked from making the majors (and replacing Andrew Knapp as the back up) simply for the lack of at bats available to him as he continues his development.

Phillies season preview
SP | RP | C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | RF | CF | LF | Bench | Manager

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