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With new ownership, who will be the nucleus of the Miami Marlins?

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A good place to start: J.T. Realmuto

Washington Nationals v Miami Marlins
J.T. Realmuto
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

With new ownership just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about which core players the Marlins will build their team around.

It remains to be seen if Giancarlo Stanton will be part of the equation. Unloading some, or all of his enormous contract makes a strong case for a trade. Brandon Carusillo outlines some of the pros and cons in his “MLB Trade Rumors” piece.

Regardless of where Stanton ends up, the Marlins have young, terrific, and controllable players to usher in the new Sherman/Jeter era. However, in my opinion, it all starts with one of the most important positions on the diamond: the catcher, where the Marlins have a special talent in homegrown J.T. Realmuto.

A Little Background

Jacob Tyler “J.T.” Realmuto is the 26-year-old starting catcher for the Miami Marlins and is sure to be a key cog for the team’s future under new ownership. Realmuto grew up in Midwest City, Oklahoma, where he was a three-sport star at Carl Albert High School. Realmuto excelled in baseball, football and basketball and won a state championship as a shortstop and quarterback. So how does a star high school shortstop end up playing catcher in the major leagues?

In 2010, a Marlins scout went to watch Realmuto play shortstop at a high school game. But when the regular catcher was called into pitch, J.T. filled in behind the dish. The scout was so impressed with Realmuto that he inquired if J.T. would be interested in catching at the professional level. He agreed, gave up his baseball scholarship to Oklahoma State, and was later drafted in the third round by the Marlins, signing for $700,000.

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Miami Marlins
J.T. Realmuto
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Big Leagues

Realmuto quickly climbed the ladder in the professional ranks, moving through the Marlins minor league system in five years. In 2014, he made his major league debut at age 23 and has been the starting catcher since 2015.

Since earning the number one catcher’s spot for Miami, Realmuto has increased his OBP (.290, .343, .351) and OPS (.696, .771, .818) for three consecutive years. His career WAR stands at 8.3 and his OPS+ is 105.

Realmuto is currently hitting at a .287 clip which puts him behind only Buster Posey among qualified MLB catchers. J.T. also has 14 home runs and 50 RBI while slugging at .468. He has plus speed for a catcher as illustrated by his 26 stolen bases since making his major league debut.

Realmuto sports a .992 MLB career fielding percentage at catcher versus a league average of .993. He has only four passed balls in 2017 and has thrown out runners trying to steal at a 34 percent rate against a 28 percent league average.

Bleacher Report ranked Realmuto eighth in its mid-year report of MLB catchers, ahead of such standouts as Yadier Molina of the Cardinals and Willson Contreras of the Cubs.

From a salary perspective, the Marlins are getting a steal, paying Realmuto slightly over the MLB minimum at $562,500. J.T. is arbitration-eligible in 2018 and should be in line for a nice pay increase. He is not due to become a free agent until 2021.

Comparisons to Posey may be a bit premature, but there is no doubt that J.T. Realmuto will be an All-Star in this league for a very long time. The Marlins would be wise to offer him a long-term deal well before his free agency year. I would make Realmuto one of the cornerstones of this team under new ownership and a Miami Marlin for years to come.