It’s amazing what happens when a player comes to Philadelphia isn’t it?
All offseason long, fans were worried about “will J.T. sign here or with the Mets?” “Will he come back?”, “Will the team be cheap and look somewhere else?” It was, quite honestly, pretty rough for some people, especially when management almost explicitly said they weren’t going to be spending this offseason, that perhaps they had to reign in the spending that has happened in the past.
In comes Dave Dombrowski and....well, you know how it all ended.
The best part of it all was hearing how much Realmuto wanted to come back. We haven’t heard how much an athlete that can sign anywhere else really, really liked his time in Philly since the halcyon days of Cliff Lee. It was all so refreshing to hear, even if it happened after he was already secured.
Looking ahead to 2021 and Realmuto’s what could go right/wrong are pretty easy to write.
What could go right in 2021
I mean, it should be pretty obvious right?
The BCIB (best catcher in baseball, for you neophytes out there) would have a season that only solidified that position. There are fans that might consider someone else as the best, a Will Smith, a James McCann, someone who combines the offense with the defense that Realmuto does, but it doesn’t look like those players are ready for that mantle just yet simply because Realmuto hasn’t shown he is ready to give it up. Age and natural decline attributed to catchers might have something to say about it, but so far, Realmuto has been able to hold his spot with a pretty firm grip.
What could go right is that Realmuto hits those 70th, 80th, or even 90th percentile projections and has an MVP caliber 5-6 WAR season, something that isn’t totally out of the realm of possibility. Even with the deadened ball expected to arrive this year, Realmuto still has shown the ability to drive the ball and hit with power, something few catchers are able to do over the course of 130-140 games.
What could go wrong in 2021
Of course, we also have to point out the obvious: Realmuto hasn’t exactly been the paragon of health lately either.
2020 saw him miss a significant chunk of time at the end of the season due to a hip injury that may not have exactly cost the team a playoff spot, but didn’t exactly help their chase either. Already in 2021, we see a freak accident where a ball that hit his thumb during a blocking drill broke that thumb causing him to miss all spring games thus far. He maintains that he’ll be ready for Opening Day, but that may be optimistic at this point. He’s been able to catch bullpens for the pitchers so he won’t be behind in that way, but for a guy who started so slowly with the bat in 2020, not getting plate appearances yet against live pitching has to be a cause for concern.
It’s incorrect to the put “injury prone” tag on him as he’s not been that during the bulk of his career. Plus, the injury he has this spring is more of a freak accident than anything. Still, if one of those freak accidents happens during the season, the team could be in a little bit of trouble.
Hopefully though, it doesn’t come to that. Hopefully he’ll get his desired 140-145 games behind the plate and go on an MVPish run the team is now paying him for.