The best catcher in baseball catches for the Philadelphia Phillies and it’s no secret.
JT Realmuto has been the definition of an elite catcher for the past 7 years. The baseball pundits agree as he was the highest-ranked catcher in MLB Network’s countdown of the top 100 players right now. He was ranked 29th overall. He led all catchers in bWAR and fWAR, with a matching 6.5.
His battery mate also helped carry the team as Garrett Stubbs had a career year. Stubbs hit new career highs in batting average, OBP, and slugging %. He slashed .264/.350/.462. His MLB career line before last season was .182/.238/.247. Stubbs was also a fine addition to the clubhouse, becoming the team’s DJ throughout their playoff run.
So, can Realmuto and Stubbs repeat their 2022s in 2023?
Last season, JT Realmuto won his 2nd Gold Glove and Silver Slugger as a Phillie. The awards given to the best fielding catcher and best-hitting catcher in the NL should further entrench Realmuto as the Best Catcher in Baseball.
Not only did Realmuto lead catchers in WAR, but his other numbers looked great as well. Realmuto hit .276 on the season, 2nd for any catcher with 400 or more plate appearances. He was 5th in OBP with a .342 mark. His .478 slugging % was second only to Cal Raleigh. He hit 22 home runs (t-4) and had 84 RBI (2nd).
Defensively, Realmuto was sharp as ever. He caught 30/68 would-be base stealers for an MLB leading 44% caught stealing %. He had 11 defensive runs saved, the best in the NL.
Most surprisingly, Realmuto stole 21 bases in 2022, only being caught once on the 2nd to last day of the season. Statcast has him in the 86th percentile for sprint speed. He’s not just one of the fastest catchers in baseball but sits in the top 14% of all fastest players in MLB.
So can Realmuto continue his production for the Phillies into 2023? All signs point to yes!
Most people forget that Realmuto started off ice-cold in 2022. Through July 2nd, Realmuto was hitting just .238 with a .672 OPS in 69 games. Whether it was hitting coach Kevin Long or Realmuto himself, he unlocked something in the second half of the season.
In his next 70 games for the Phillies, Realmuto would slash .314/.369/.599 with 17 home runs.
He made a major adjustment and it seems like it’s still paying off if Spring Training and the World Baseball Classic are any indications. In 4 WBC games, Realmuto hit .500 with a 1.200 OPS. In Spring Training, he’s hit .353 with a 1.447 OPS.
As long as the cool Pennsylvania April air doesn’t cool him down, the BCIB should again finish top-10 in MVP voting, giving the Phillies another ace up their sleeve.
What about the Phillies Catching Depth?
Garrett Stubbs dealt with a knee injury through most of the spring. The Phillies don’t need him to repeat his same stat line from 2022 but it would be nice. With what he had done previously in his career, expecting a repeat from Stubbs is a bit of a fool’s errand.
As long as he’s healthy, don’t be surprised if Stubbs has become a league-average hitter. Through Kevin Long, all things are possible with hitters.
If Stubbs’ knee flares up again, Rafael Marchan would be the next man up. He had a rough 2022, hitting just .233 in the minors. He’s also 0-10 in Spring Training. Despite the cold streak, Marchan has hit .267 at the MLB level. He’s more defensive-minded but that’s what you need from a backup catcher.
Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP