Some say the numbers never lie. We often say you should dig further into the statistics, and sometimes you find hidden value beyond what you see in the box scores. Don’t get me wrong — J.T. Realmuto‘s stats on the surface were very good including that fWAR of +3.6 in 2017 — but when you dig deeper, his buried numbers jump off of the page.
Realmuto has been very underwhelming overall when he plays in home games in Miami, and a superstar on the road. Yes, a superstar on the road. Here is his road slash in his career: .319/.360/.485/.846 which is a small look into what he can be. That is an 850 plate appearance sample size. Compare that to Realmuto’s career slashline in Miami: .237/.280/.365/.645.
The home/road splits were even greater last season. Realmuto had 12 home runs on the road versus only 5 dingers in Marlins Park. But the most dramatic numbers were the cavernous sized splits between home/road in 2017 where he hit .323/.369/.543/.912 on the road. Even with the Marlins moving in the fences for cozier dimensions, Realmuto’s home/road splits were 285 points higher on the road in OPS last year. It does not take much of an imagination to ponder the benefits of seeing Realmuto move to a team where he can improve just by not playing 81 games in Marlins Park. Most consider Buster Posey the best catcher in baseball the last 3 years, but consider Posey has only had an OPS above .900 one season in his career, and he accomplished that great season 6 years ago.
It is possible to see additional improvement for Realmuto who saw a 40 point drop in his BABIP last year which was only .318. He struggled in August batting a below-Mendoza .183, and it was also his heaviest workload for any month at 104 at-bats compared to his average of 85 at-bats for every other month. That is a lot of at-bats for a full-time catcher and should be looked at. The other area of improvement that Realmuto could find is adjusting his launch angle. His average launch angle last season was only 9.81 degrees which was below the MLB average of 11.83 degrees.
This chart below shows that Realmuto would have had at least 11 more home runs if he played all of his games in Nationals Park. Amazingly because of the distances in Marlins Park you can see some of the pink dots that would be home runs in Nationals Park that were outs in Marlins Park. It is not hard to imagine that Realmuto could have hit 25+ home runs last year if he played in Nationals Park as his home park.
In 2017, Realmuto really turned his defensive game around which has added to his overall valuation. During the 2016 season, J.T. was rated 101st among qualified framers by Baseball Prospectus of the 104 catchers rated along with -15.7 runs saved (technically lost) which overall is awful. For 2017, he turned into an above average pitch framer per Baseball Prospectus and had +14.5 runs saved which was 6th best in the Majors. Realmuto threw out 32% of potential base stealers last year which was above the 27% league average. On top of that, he had never picked-off a baserunner in his career prior to 2017 when he picked-off 5 baserunners.
Former Nationals star catcher, Brian Schneider, has been Realmuto’s catching coach with the Marlins, and he became an integral part of refining his defense and concentrating on the finer points of the game like blocking pitches in the dirt, throwing out runners and framing pitches.
“That’s a huge part of the game,” Realmuto said about pitch framing. “Stealing a strike here and there is something that really changes ballgames. Changing counts, the difference between a 1-0 and 0-1 count is huge [for my pitcher].”
For positional flexibility, Realmuto played first base for the first-time in 2017. You have to wonder with his speed if leftfield is another position that could get him playing in more games if Realmuto was to split time at the catcher position with Matt Wieters.
One of Realmuto’s other hidden tools is his speed. He has been the fastest catcher in baseball every year he has played. Realmuto was actually rated the second best according to Fangraphs in baserunning for catchers although when you are batting in the middle of the order you cannot always utilize your speed in taking extra bases. In a game where speed is an asset, extra value comes with each “plus” tool a player possesses.
“I’ve always been fast from playing football and basketball,” said Realmuto. “It didn’t matter whatever sport I was playing. I was always running. I tried to do my best to keep my athleticism with where it’s at.”
We have been wishing for a J.T. Realmuto acquisition since the 2017 season ended. Many said he was not available for trade — things change, and now he is supposedly ready to be moved. Time will tell if any trade that includes Realmuto will come to fruition.
The right-handed Jacob Tyler Realmuto is the “real deal”. This 26-year-old Oklahoma native also got married this year as Jacob and Lexi tied the knot. After graduating from his Oklahoma City high school, he was a 3rd round pick by the Marlins. In high school, Realmuto was a star shortstop who would sub-in at catcher when there was a need. For the Marlins, there was a need, and they converted him to a full-time catcher.
Realmuto’s defense has improved year-over-year. His value goes far beyond Miami as this is the opposite of what you get from players who only thrive in hitter’s parks. Miami’s Marlins Park is a notorious stadium for batters who aren’t home run hitters.
The Nats were the worst by a large margin in baseball in the catching tandem at a combined .594 OPS and a -1.1 WAR valuation. While Fangraphs expects Matt Wieters to rebound in 2018 at a projected +1.3 WAR, the Nats have no starting catcher under team control after the 2018 season unless you consider Pedro Severino, Raudy Read, or Spencer Kieboom as viable candidates.
Here is a sampling of some pitchers that Realmuto has faced in his career. There are dozens of names you can scroll through:
Washington Nationals 2019 Roster with Realmuto
The Nationals could have Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy, and Matt Wieters head to free agency after the 2018 season. If the Nationals acquired this disgruntled Marlin, he would become the Nationals primary catcher for 2019 and 2020 as much of the positional roster turns over. Realmuto could also become a middle of the order bat. While he cannot replace Bryce Harper, he could go a long way in replacing Daniel Murphy‘s production. What J.T. does for this roster in 2018, he fills in a void that was evident in 2017.
The Jolt of Reality
Now for the jolt of reality. The Miami Marlins control the next 3 seasons of Realmuto’s service time, and they know how much he is worth in trade value. For any team that would consider trading for Realmuto, they are going to have to pay dearly in terms of prospects.
What will it take to acquire Realmuto? You have to figure at least one of the Nats top prospects will be traded in a deal. Wait and see as it looks almost inevitable that he will be traded. Why not the Washington Nationals as the acquiring team?