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Miami Marlins: Is J.T. Realmuto the Marlins future at catcher?

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In the Marlins’ offensive outburst yesterday, catcher J.T. Realmuto nearly placed himself in the record books, finishing the game a double shy of the first cycle in Marlins history.

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The 24-year-old catcher knocked home five runs in the sixth inning with an RBI single and a grand slam, which capped off the ten run frame.

If you were to watch yesterday’s game and no others, you’d believe that J.T. was an all-star, and that the Marlins were an incredible hitting team. Well, we know the ladder statement isn’t true, and by no means is Realmuto an all-star. But a solid player? It’s debatable. But the future looks bright for the young catcher, and that isn’t debatable.

Realmuto was quickly thrown into the mix in 2015, after Miami gave up on Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Most thought Salty would start as the Marlins catcher for the near future, so can his replacement fill the same role?

For the meantime, yes. The Marlins don’t need an elite backstop for their push to avoid baseball’s cellar. Realmuto works just fine. Plus, he’s seeing major league pitching and gaining experience he wouldn’t have in Triple-A New Orleans.

The Marlins haven’t always viewed Realmuto as their future catcher, however. He had been relatively slow to develop, but his average jumped up 60 points from 2013 to 2014 (.299). Additionally, Realmuto improved his walk rate and decreased his strikeout rate. His on-base percentage lept to .369 and his stolen base total doubled, even with less games played.

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Defensively is where J.T. shines the most. He’s quick to his feet and uses his rocket arm to gun down base stealers. Realmuto started at quarterback in high school, partly explaining the power of his arm. His Def (Fielding runs above average + positional adjustment) on FanGraphs places fifth in the NL at 6.1, which is even more impressive considering he hasn’t been catching full-time.

On offense, Realmuto has room to grow. He’s a contact hitter before power, but he has some pop. J.T. definitely needs to improve on his walk rate, which stands at 3.9 (37th out of 40 — minimum 150 plate appearances). Realmuto’s speed would definitely pose a threat, but his on-base percentage looms around a low .280’s mark, keeping him off the bases.

We’ve seen flashes of J.T. Realmuto’s talent and potential, but will it all come together?

It’s seems as if Realmuto is on track to do so. He’s thriving against lefty pitching, hitting .329 in 34 games. His second half numbers show incredible improvement.

1st half of 2015: 65 G, .247/.275/.379, 4 HR

2nd half of 2015: 20 G, .282/.320/.521, 3 HR

One stat which has remained even is his walk rate, moving from 3.9 in the first half to 4.0 in the second. His ISO has increased from .132 to .239, signifying an improved power stroke.

All signs are pointing up for J.T. Realmuto. Could he ever become an all-star caliber catcher in Miami?

That’s something we still don’t know, especially with Buster Posey occupying the ballot until retirement. But he certainly seems fit for a starting catcher role somewhere in the big leagues, and he’s better than any option the Marlins have.

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