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Miami Marlins prospects: Is it time to call-up J.T. Realmuto?

A look at Miami Marlins catching prospect J.T. Realmuto and how he is progressing in 2014.

Chris Trotman

I love writing here on Fish Stripes mostly because of the interactions I have in the comment sections with readers. I love talking baseball, especially prospects, and we have had some great conversations about those very topics. I enjoy hearing your thoughts and opinions; it gives me different perspectives to consider when thinking about certain players. The most recent conversation was regarding the future of the catcher position with the Miami Marlins. That conversation made me want to check in on one of the players who will likely compete for the everyday catcher job very soon.

J.T. Realmuto was drafted in the third round of the 2011 MLB Draft by the Miami Marlins and was then viewed as competition for Kyle Skipworth for the future starter at the catcher position. Currently it seems as if there is no competition, with Skipworth scuffling at Triple-A, and Realmuto excelling with the Jacksonville Suns. Coming into the season FanGraphs rated him as the number 8 prospect in the Marlins season  even after coming off a disappointing year at Double-A in which he hit .239/.310/.353 in 106 games. Even with the struggles Realmuto had a good year defensively, proving he could handle the position in the long-term if his bat eventually caught up.

This season his bat is catching up. In 81 games with Jacksonville this season Realmuto is hitting .295/.362/.449 with 6 homeruns and 51 RBI. He also has a wRC+ of 127, and solid walk rate of 9.4 %. Defensively he has thrown out 25.7 % of base-runners that have attempted to steal, it is not as impressive as his 34 % rate last season, but it certainly is not awful.

Realmuto has been rewarded for his good play with call-ups to the big league club when catchers have gone done with injury. In an extremely small sample size of 20 at-bats he is hitting .200/.238/.200, which does not really tell us anything as he is not getting enough of an opportunity to show if he can really play at this level. As a whole the catcher position has been a bit inconsistent for the Marlins in 2014.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia has struggled to consistently make contact this season, with a strikeout rate of 32.9 percent. He is currently hitting .222/.332/.387, but his high walk rate of 14.2% has saved him from being replacement level. Even with his struggles he is still a better option than Jeff Mathis who is definitely only a backup catcher with a career slash line of .196/.256/.308.

Though he is a switch-hitter Saltlamacchia has always struggled against left-handed pitching in his career, batting a dismal .206/.269/.334. This season has been no different as he goes into Tuesday batting .206/.280/.353 against lefties. My proposal is to call-up Realmuto now, and platoon him with Saltalamacchia. This season Realmuto has actually hit slightly better against right-handed pitchers, but his splits are not drastic and he has had success against lefties. His slash line against lefties in Double-A is .292/.346/.417, and while there is no guarantee that he would have that same level of success at the major league level, at this point it is worth taking a shot.

Finishing the season at the major league level would give the coaching staff a chance to get a better look at Realmuto heading into 2015, and give him a foundation of experience to build on. As I also stated, I believe promoting him would help the Marlins improve their lineup against left-handed pitching, which obviously helps their push for the Wild Card. This seems like an option that has many positives and few negatives, but perhaps I am overlooking something. What do you think? Am I way off base for wanting to see more of Realmuto? Should the Marlins stick with Saltlamacchia exclusively behind the plate in lieu of this platoon I'm suggesting? Let me know in the comments section.