Roger Dean Stadium is regarded as a pitcher's park. Just ask Jake Realmuto. - Brad Barr-US PRESSWIRE
After first-round selection Kyle Skipworth's spectacular failure as a prospect, the Marlins took another risk on a prep shortstop and part-time catcher, selecting Jacob Realmuto in the third round of the 2010 Amateur Draft. A quarterback in high school, Realmuto impressed scouts with his speed and leadership ability. He later agreed to sign for a $600,000 bonus.
The Marlins wasted no time deciding Realmuto's fate, immediately converting him to a full-time catcher. He debuted with Greensboro in 2011, hitting .287/.347/.454 in 96 games, and thereby becoming the apparent Miami Marlins future catcher. A year has since passed, and Realmuto has lost some of his luster. He began the season in Jupiter, joined by other significant hitting prospects such as Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, and Noah Perio. While Ozuna and Yelich performed well in high Class-A ball, Realmuto and Perio struggled to match their prior performances. Realmuto hit .256/.319/.345 in 123 games, making for a 91 wRC+.
One explanation for his poor performance could be the significant increase in games caught, which may have worn down his body over the course of the year. The Florida State League tends to punish all but the most prepared and advanced batters.
Strangely, his walk and strikeout rates actually improved from 2011. The fall in production resulted from a dip in isolated power and batting average on balls in play.
The acquisition of Rob Brantly has also complicated Realmuto's future in the Miami organization. Already a solid catching prospect, Brantly solidified his position above Realmuto by hiting a spectacular .290/.372/.460 in 31 games for the Marlins last season. Realmuto may have the higher ceiling of the two players, but he has yet to play in the upper minors, much less perform well there.
Realmuto's athleticism remains his greatest asset. He possesses above-average speed on the basepaths, which allowed him to steal 13 bases last season. If he harnesses his physical abilities, he will emerge as a quality defensive catcher. He has already demonstrated improvement at the position in the past year. He allowed only 9 passed balls in Jupiter, compared to 25 the prior season in Greensboro. He was also able to catch 36 percent of would-be baserunners.
Realmuto will advance to Double-A next season, where he will be an age appropriate prospect at 22 years old. Rob Brantly will likely buy Realmuto more time to develop his raw talent into actionable in-game performance. If all goes well, he could be playing in Miami as early as 2014, at which point the Marlins will have to decide who will catch moving forward.