You know what I love about Twitter?
It’s the blue check mark. Lord knows there’s been enough controversy of late regarding that symbol of online dominance, but prior to the space guy’s wacky new system of blue check acquisition, random people just kind of had one. What makes it fun is that once a person has one, it’s as though they have been christened as some kind of expert in whatever field they so choose to share their opinion in.
This, in turn, leads to some very, very bad takes that just make you shake your head. Take this one for example:
Top 10 catchers going into the 2023 season. pic.twitter.com/nTjoi38lzo— MLB Nerds (@MLBNerds) December 8, 2022
We’ll come back to this, but suffice to say, I’m not quite sure I agree with it.
Once 2022 was over, there should have been no more doubt about the following statement: J.T. Realmuto is the best catcher in the game right now. Use whatever metric you want, but the combination of them all leads us to this same conclusion over and over and over. To deny it at this point is simply be contrarian. The question is - how much longer will he hold the title?
2022 stats: .276/.342/.478, 22 HR, 84 RBI, 21 SB, 21.2 K%, 7.3 BB%, 128 wRC+, 6.5 bWAR
I’m just not sure what else there is to say about J.T. Realmuto.
Fifth in wRC+ among catchers with at least 350 plate appearances.
Tied for fourth with 21 HR.
Second in RBI.
The best in runs scored, steals and BsR.
One of the best in catching defense.
The superlatives could go on and on, but there really isn’t anything else to say other than he’s the best catcher in baseball right now. Are there others threatening his place atop the list? Of course, there is always someone coming to take that crown away from him. But until someone actually does it, one cannot take his name off of the metal just yet.
Let’s not forget this though. Prior to his absence from the Toronto series, Realmuto wasn’t all that good at the plate. There was genuine worry that maybe the wall had finally been hit, that all the innings had caught up to him. You could make the argument that his season should be split into a “before and after Toronto” to get an accurate description of his season.
before Toronto: .240/.313/.371, 7 HR, 35 RBI, 21.6 K%, 7.7 BB%, 93 wRC+
after Toronto: .319/.377/.607, 15 HR, 49 RBI, 20.6 K%, 6.7 BB%, 171 wRC+
If anything, the first part of that gives us a glimpse into what the decline phase of Realmuto’s career might look like. Still kind of, if you squint hard enough productive, but not the type flight catcher that the team has come to expect at this point.
Ahhh, now here is where the real discussion begins.
The discussion is not about how much Realmuto will decline. Each time we think, “maybe he should sit this one out,” or we think, “maybe the team should rest him a little more,” he simply defies that logic and keeps on producing. His early season line needn’t be ignored from last year, but it should remind us that time comes for us all. Eventually, Realmuto will start to decline, but that time isn’t yet.
Instead, let’s talk about Realmuto’s status among the elite. For me, he’s still the best in the business behind the plate. Those who believe Yadier Molina was the best one in the game, well, he’s not only gone, but his bat retired years before he did. But what we’re about to enter is an almost golden age of catching for the game. Even if you think Realmuto might slip a bit, he’s likely to be among the top five catchers in Major League Baseball in 2023, but he does finally have some competition. The Braves just grabbed one of the contenders in Sean Murphy. The Dodgers have one in Will Smith, who some might argue is better than Realmuto right now. The Mets’ top prospect resides behind the plate in Francisco Alvarez and if the reports are true, his bat could be something special. The Blue Jays have a trio of names in Alejandro Kirk, Danny Jansen and Gabriel Moreno that are each solid in their own right.
But if you asked me to pick one guy, one catcher who will likely take the crown as #BCIB away from Realmuto in 2023, it’s Adley Rutschman.
Do yourself a favor and go look at how much that young man changed the fortunes of the Orioles last season. He’s probably the #1 reason that team was in playoff contention until the bitter end. His arrival in Baltimore set them on a run that had them interesting for the first time in forever. His overall game is so similar to Realmuto, it’s scary.
He can hit.
He can field.
He can run.
It’s just impressive what this guy can do.
J.T. Realmuto is going to be good next season, of that I have no doubt. Will he finally start to show some wear? He might. After all, he caught a lot of innings last year with the playoffs being wearing him down a bit. His commitment to the World Baseball Classic has me a bit nervous, but the team was likely looking for ways to rest him early in the season. The early season absence of Bryce Harper probably affects Realmuto the most. The team will be able to keep his bat in the lineup more often, giving him some time off his feet. Let’s just hope that decline phase is pushed back still another season.