9. Jake Realmuto, C
Drafted: 2010, 3rd round from Carl Albert HS (OK)
Age: 21 Height: 6'1'' Weight: 205 lbs.
Up until the Marlins acquired Rob Brantly from the Tigers last July in the deal that sent Anibal Sanchez to Detroit, prospect Jacob (or J.T.) Realmuto was seen as the organization's catcher of the future. With Brantly now making his impact at the big league level, Miami can afford to take its time with the 21-year-old Realmuto, who comes in at ninth on our Fish Stripes Top Prospect List. Armed with a good bat and improving defensive ability behind the plate, Realmuto could make the Brantly vs. Realmuto decision a difficult one for the organization down the line.
Realmuto, an Oklahoma native, was taken by the Fish in the third round of the 2010 draft. A shortstop in high school, the Marlins quickly moved Realmuto to catching full time after drafting him. After struggling through 40 at-bats in his professional debut in the Gulf Coast League, Realmuto made his full season debut with Greensboro in 2011. With the Grasshoppers, Realmuto posted an impressive .287/.347/.454 with 12 home runs and 13 stolen bases. The Marlins pushed him to Jupiter in 2012, where he had a somewhat disappointing season, particularly in the power department as he saw his slugging percentage drop by over a hundred points. A possible of the reason for this, as Eric Weston mentioned in his prospect review of Realmuto, could have been due to the physical wear of the position taking a toll.
At the plate, Realmuto possesses good bat speed that should translate to average power in the future. He shows good discipline at the plate and doesn't strike out a whole bunch, as evidenced by only 64 strikeouts in 446 at-bats with Jupiter last season. What sets Realmuto apart from most catching prospects is his athleticism. Even for a big guy, Realmuto has managed to steal 10-plus bases in each of his first two full seasons in the minors and you can expect him to put up similar numbers in the future, something that is a bonus compared with most catchers who practically become sitting ducks on the basepaths. With that being said, Realmuto still has room to improve his defense behind the plate, though most reports agree that he has made significant strides since being drafted. We can't forget that he became a full-time catcher just three years ago and given the fact that he will spend at least one more full season in the minors, there's no reason to believe that Realmuto won't continue to make further defensive improvements.
As with most catching prospects in the Marlins' system, most people will immediately point to Kyle Skipworth as the potential doomsday scenario when it comes to future projections. Luckily for fans, however, Jacob Realmuto possesses more reliable tools both at the plate and behind it than Skipworth and if all goes according to plan, he could be pushing for Rob Brantly's starting job some time around late 2014.