More Sports:

March 06, 2023

Season preview: Phillies have the best catcher in baseball, and it's a big advantage

Let's preview the Phillies' backstop situation

Phillies MLB
JT_Realmuto_Phillies_Blue_Jays_092022_KateFrese25.jpg Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 20: A photo from the Philadelphia Phillies game against the Toronto Blue Jays on September 20, 2022 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. (Photo by Kate Frese/PhillyVoice)

The Phillies are in the midst of an important spring training. After finishing the season two wins from a championship, the defending NL champions will have to quiet the doubters again — this time with an even higher payroll and tougher expectations to match.

Philly currently carries +1600 odds to win the World Series in 2023, the eighth best via OddsShark. They are third to win the NL East (+325) behind the Braves and Mets.

Before the team hits the field in central Texas to open their 2023 campaign against the Rangers on March 30, we're going to take a deep dive into each positional group.

Let's take a look at catcher to kick things off...

Scouting report

J.T. Realmuto had an extremely solid regular season in 2022, earning his second Gold Glove and third Silver Slugger for his work both behind the plate and next to it. He hit .276 and added 22 homers and 84 RBI over an impressive 139 games. No catcher in baseball besides Realmuto started more than 120 times. His durability and drive to be in the game make him that much more valuable than other catchers around the league, who typically start 90 or so games.

The 31-year-old posted a career high in RBI and his highest single season WAR ever at 6.5 (via baseball-reference). He threw out 35 batters, fourth most in baseball — and surrendered just two passed balls in more than 1,110 innings in the battery.

In the postseason he stepped it up even more, as one of the few World Series heroes he hit a massive home run in Game 1 to give the Phillies an early series lead. He caught all 17 playoff games in his first ever October experience.

Backing him up for the second year will be Garrett Stubbs, who actually impressed and exceeded expectations last season and is in line to handle understudy duties for 2023.

The Phillies know how important cashing in on Realmuto in his prime is to their success, and it's one of the reasons why the team spent money to improve the offense and pitching around him. He will once again contend for "best catcher in baseball" status in 2023.

NL East ranking

Realmuto is still the best at what he does, and we have no hesitation placing him at the top of the NL East pecking order (projections and WAR courtesy of Baseball Reference).

TeamCatcher (age) 2022 stats2023 proj  Career WAR
Phillies J.T. Realmuto (31).276, 22 HR, 84 RBI.264, 19 HR, 73 RBI29.7
Sean Murphy (28)
.250, 18 HR, 66 RBI
.238, 18 HR, 62 RBI
MetsOmar Narváez (31).206, 4 HR, 23 RBI.233, 8 HR, 28 RBI7.1
MarlinsJacob Stallings (33) .223, 4 HR, 34 RBI.232, 8 HR, 46 RBI5.3
NationalsKiebert Ruiz (24).273, 7 HR, 36 RBI.258, 9 HR, 34 RBI2.2

The rest of the divison will see starting catchers who are mostly veteran journeymen, with the Nats giving former prospect Ruiz a chance to replicate some decent numbers from 2022. 

Phillies' future

With Realmuto under contract through the 2025 season, there isn't much of an opening for homegrown catching prospects — one of the reasons the organization was comfortable trading Logan O'Hoppe last summer to the Angels in the Brandon Marsh deal.

Rafael Marchan is still likely to start the year in Triple-A and will serve as the third catcher on the team's depth chart. He is 23, and in the Phillies' top 10 according to many prospect rankings and could serve as a key trade piece. 

The next name to know behind the plate is Rickardo Perez, a 19-year-old who has a promising bat and could be in the mix as we near closer to Realmuto becoming a free agent in three years. There are no other catchers in the franchise's top 50.

Phillies season preview
C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | DH | OF | SP | RP

Follow Evan on Twitter: @evan_macy

Like us on Facebook: PhillyVoice Sports