J.T. Realmuto is best behind the plate… for now

ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 6: J. T. Realmuto
ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 6: J. T. Realmuto /

J.T. Realmuto might be the catcher of the present for the Miami Marlins, but he’s also the first basemen of the future. It’s all a matter of time.

On Sunday, the Miami Marlins got their first look at what J.T. Realmuto would look like at first base during the regular season. The verdict: pretty darn good. In addition to making a slick over-the-shoulder catch, he provided an offensive boost from the position.

With Justin Bour on the disabled list, we might get to see Realmuto there more often over the next few weeks. A.J. Ellis handles his duties behind the plate well, and Tomas Telis serves as a viable backup. But what happens when Bour returns?

The Miami Marlins will eventually take a familiar path for good-hitting catchers, they’ll slide him over to first base.

What is keeping him behind the plate now is two-pronged. One: he’s still very young. At only 26-years old, Realmuto is still able to handle the daily grind of being behind the plate for an entire season. To what does he attribute being able to stave off a drop in production? “I’m still young I guess”.

But that’s the thing. He won’t always be young. In fact, for any catcher not named Pudge Rodriguez, Realmuto will likely start to breakdown sooner than later. Squatting behind the plate for nine innings, for 150 games a year has a tendency to wear a guy out.

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The athletic catcher continues to grow at the plate, evidenced by a breakout season offensively in 2017. A .306/.366/.489 slash line are all career highs. Along with those, are highs in home runs, and only four away from a high in RBI’s. He’s also well below his career K-rate.

Once he’s no longer viable behind the plate, the Miami Marlins will want to find a way to keep his bat in the lineup on an everyday basis.

The looming move

There is only one problem with moving Realmuto over to first base; the second prong. The Miami Marlins already have a player there. Justin Bour was also enjoying a breakout season before finding himself on the disabled list. A donut-loving fan favorite, Bour won’t be easy to supplant.

And there is no rush to do it. The Miami Marlins were hesitant to trade Bour ahead of the deadline this year because of the many years of team control that remain on his contract. The left-handed hitting slugger has barely logged over two-years of MLB service time.

The team might chose to trade Bour in two or three years, then slide Realmuto over as he nears his 30’s. They’ve logged similar amounts of service time, but with Bour several years his senior and with a more limited skill set, the decision is an obvious one.

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For now, Realmuto best serves the team behind the plate. Bour was similarly headed for career highs in a number of statistical categories before injury derailed the end of his season. Having shown that he is a legitimate everyday first basemen, the Miami Marlins will be happy to retain him until he is ready to cash in big.

They’ll be faced with the decision of either signing Realmuto or Bour, which is a no-brainer. Realmuto will slide over to first base, and the Marlins will put another pair of fresh, young knees behind the plate.

Of course, they could sell the team and trade everybody. In which case, disregard everything I’ve said.