Marlins J.T. Realmuto: Is the best yet to come?

The Marlins may have traded their top two hitters, but that doesn’t mean the team is void of talent. If you are looking for a productive catcher, don’t pass on JT Realmuto.

We know what kind of situation the Miami Marlins are in right now. They want to decrease their salary cap. Plain and simple. Unfortunately, that will affect the team’s level of play for the next few years. However, there is still talent to be found in drafts. Catcher JT Realmuto is atop that list.

I first wrote about Realmuto in the middle of the 2015 season as a waiver wire add. Then again after the 2016 season as a potential top-five catcher. My colleague Brad Kelly questioned if we can trust him in 2017. So it’s safe to say we like Realmuto.

This piece is going to highlight the season Realmuto had, and it was a great one, but to also let you know why the best is still yet to come.

Realmuto played a career-high 141 games. He finished with a .278 batting average, 17 home runs, 65 RBI and 68 runs scored. Realmuto also stole eight bases and posted a .332 on-base percentage. He finished as the No. 4 catcher on the Player Rater after being drafted in the 16th round in standard ESPN leagues.

Realmuto didn’t make many improvements to his plate discipline, but he also didn’t regress. His O-Swing, swing, contact and swinging strike rates all stayed within decimal points of each other between 2016 and 2017.

He was able to lower his first-pitch strike by two percent, but that may be more because of the opposing pitcher than anything Realmuto did.

What he was able to do was get more balls in the air and over the fence. His fly ball rate went up four percent and his HR/FB rate went up almost three percent. While he did sacrifice some batting average, adding some power is a good thing.

Realmuto still has speed to his game. He finished second among catchers with eight steals, Yadier Molina finished with nine, after stealing 12 bases the year prior. There are a few catchers that have the potential for double-digit home runs and steals and Realmuto is one of them.

The counting stats may be harder to come by, especially with Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna no longer on the team. Though, the Marlins still have Starlin Castro, Justin Bour, Christian Yelich and Martin Prado to carry the offense.

Looking at my catcher rankings, Realmuto ranks sixth. I have Gary Sanchez, Willson Contreras, Buster Posey, Molina and Salvador Perez ahead of him.

The consistency Realmuto has shown over the last couple of years shows that he is at the top of his game. Still just 26 years old, I believe he has the potential to reach 20 home runs, 10 steals and  hit .280. Molina did it in 2012 with a 22 HR/12 SB/.315 line. I think Realmuto will do it in 2018.

Realmuto continues to get the ball in the air and off the ground. With good contact and plate discipline, he will finish as a top-five catcher again in 2018.

Catching is either a draft early or draft late position. If you miss on Sanchez, Contreras or Posey, then you can wait for another of the other options later on. Realmuto is atop that draft later category. With the stats that he can provide, he should be drafted no later than Round 15 in standard leagues.