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March 12, 2019

Phillies season preview: J.T. Realmuto gives catcher spot a boost in a multitude of ways

Over the last two weeks of spring training, the Phillies turn their prep work to get ready for the regular season into overdrive.

We'll do the same thing here at PhillyVoice. As the March 28 season opener against the Braves approaches, we'll break down everything you need to know to get ready for one of the most anticipated Phillies seasons ever.

First up, catcher...

Of the Phillies' problems last season, catcher was not high on the list.

In terms of wins above replacement created, by position, the catcher spot ranked tops among Phillies positions last season (though still was 13th of all catching positions in baseball). 

Philly had a young, up-and-coming prospect in Jorge Alfaro who was finally coming of age and the future looked bright.

Matt Klentak and the Phils front office thought they could make it brighter. 

In a rare intra-divisional trade, the Phillies swapped Alfaro with the Marlins (and a pair of prospects) for J.T. Realmuto — an All-Star, Silver Slugger and one of the best at the position.

Scouting report

Realmuto is a career .279 hitter and has started at least 125 games and hit double digit homers in each of his last four seasons in Miami. He's definitely an above average hitter.

But on defense he is elite. Last year, Realmuto threw out 38 percent of runners attempting to steal, sixth best of any catcher with 50 or more starts behind the plate. He also allowed just eight passed balls all season.

However his one weakness may be how he handles a pitching staff. Granted, Realmuto was catching for the worst team in baseball last season, but according to Baseball Reference's "pitch calling above average" statistic, he was the second worst in MLB in 2018, costing his team five runs due to his pitch-calling.

NL East ranking

Realmuto was the best catcher in the NL last year, and there's little reason to believe he won't be the best in the NL East this season.

The Braves will pair veteran Brian McCan with Tyler Flowers, while the Nationals and Mets will start veteran backstops Kurt Suzuki and Wilson Ramos respectively. And of course, Miami has high hopes for Alfaro.

Here's how the NL east measures up with starting battery men:

 2018 stats2019 proj  Career WAR
Phillies J.T. Realmuto (28).277, 21 HR,
74 RBI
.277, 16 HR,
61 RBI
BravesBrian McCann (33).212, 7 HR,
23 RBI
.230, 14 HR,
32 RBI
NationalsKurt Suzuki (35).271, 12 HR,
50 RBI
.257, 15 HR,
55 RBI
MetsWilson Ramos (31).306, 15 HR,
 70 RBI
.282, 16 HR,
63 RBI 
MarlinsJorge Alfaro (25) .262, 10 HR,
37 RBI
.264, 12 HR,
62 RBI

Phillies' future

Realmuto has the kind of bat that can really slide into any part of the batting order, but with his power and ability to get on base (he had an on base percentage of .340 last year) he will probably slot into somewhere between 2-5 in the order.

He isn't known for stealing bases but he did nab 12 in 2017 and runs decently well — but probably won't lead off.

Realmuto is under team control for one year beyond 2019, with an arbitration year in 2020. He will be a free agent in 2021 if the Phils do not extend him sometime in the next 20 months.

Phillies season preview
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