2024 Phillies Player Spotlight: JT Realmuto

With the 2024 MLB season bearing down on us. We here at EOP will spotlight a Phillies player every week until the start of the 2024 season. We will highlight their 2023 season, strengths, weaknesses, and 2024 projections. This week we will highlight catcher JT Realmuto.      

On the surface, Realmuto was solid if not unspectacular in 2023. He knocked 20 home runs, swiped 16 bases, and led all catchers in games played behind the dish, finishing as a finalist for the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards.

J.T. Realmuto is not the #BCIB anymore. The torch has been passed on to someone else, and that player is subject to debate (Smith, Rutschman, etc.). There were enough signs in his game last year that makes one wonder if Realmuto is even in the top ten as a catcher, but I’m still not sure we can bet against him returning to a loftier status. 2023 stats: 540 PA, .252/.310/.452, 20 HR, 63 RBI, 6.5 BB%, 25.6 K%, 102 wRC+, 1.5 fWAR

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Strengths

Let’s start with his defense, the primary job of a catcher. Realmuto still has one of the strongest throwing arms for a catcher in the game, his pop time to second four-hundredths of a second (1.83 sec) ahead of second place (1.87 sec). It may not be the best when considering the velocity but being tied for seventh at 86.7 miles per hour isn’t exactly slouching. If we move to blocking, Realmuto is one of the best here as well. There were aspects of the job where he fell off considerably (we’ll get to them), but these are the areas where he’s still among the elite defensively.

With the bat, one positive we can take from 2023 is that he still hits for the expected power, his .452 slugging percentage is third among qualified catchers. Stretch those parameters back to those catchers with at least 200 plate appearances, he drops in the rankings, but the overall total slugging percentage is still a solid job by him. Though there were struggles this year, which we’ll get to, he’s still able to do damage at the plate, still producing at an above-average level.

Weakness

  • It looks like all those games played, coupled with the fact that he’ll be 33 years old when the season starts, is finally catching up with Realmuto.
  •  worst walk rate since 2017
  • worst strikeout rate since his 11-game debut in 2014
  • lowest wRC+ since his rookie season in 2015
  • fewest fWAR since that same rookie season
  • worst season by runs via Baseball Savant
  • worst framing season of his career

In short, last season was a large step backward for Realmuto. A lot of the defensive metrics can rebound easily, so it’s not hard to see him bouncing back in 2024 behind the plate. It’s the offensive numbers that are offensive.

But we’re smart enough to dig beyond the surface-level numbers. We know that teams look at other metrics as well – what are his chase rates, is he swinging and missing more often, etc? Here, we can look at more data and come away a bit more relieved that maybe his drop-off in production in 2023 isn’t exactly a portend of doom.

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2024 Projection

Signing J.T. Realmuto to a contract extension was the correct move by the franchise. Being able to field a playoff team means having players be at, or near, the top of their position, and Realmuto is. Not re-signing him would have been a step backward when considering the alternatives at the time (whether James McCann…).

However, it’s probably time for the Phillies to lessen the playing time for Realmuto and give more to the backup catcher. It also might mean upgrading the backup catcher, but that’s another discussion.

 The team will likely continue with its status quo of letting Realmuto catch as much as he wants, but at some point, Rob Thomson needs to step in and think about the bigger picture. We don’t know if Realmuto will be more productive with more time off, but it’s getting close to putting the idea into practice if it isn’t that time already.

Matt Bednarczyk
Matt Bednarczyk

Matt Bednarczyk is your host of Talking Philly Sports With Matty B. He is a proud retired US Army Sergeant First Class, he is also a combat veteran with over 80 months served in Afganistan, and Iraq . Huge Hockey Fan. Matt is a lifelong 4 for 4 Philly sports fan. Born and raised on the Mayfair and Tacony neighborhood lines of Northeast Philly. He brings over 40 years of Philadelphia Sports passion and provides a realistic look at our Major Sports Teams and the most passionate sports fans on the planet. Look for his show live on Edge of Philly Sports.

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