Fantasy Baseball: How Does J.T. Realmuto's Trade to the Phillies Impact His Value?
The catching position in fantasy baseball is a lot like the tight end position in fantasy football: it's bereft of talent, but there's not a lot of guaranteed volume.
As we look more deeply at the backstop spot, check out the six (that's right, only six) players that even qualified for the MLB batting title.
Philadelphia and Miami are in agreement on a trade that would send All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto to the Phillies for catcher Jorge Alfaro, pitching prospects Sixto Sanchez and Will Stewart, and an international bonus slot, league sources familiar with the deal tell ESPN.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 7, 2019
Currently, Realmuto is going at pick 56.88 in NFBC drafts, which is a late fifth-round selection in 12-team formats. He's also the first catcher off of the board.
But with the trade, is he still worth that high draft cost? Let's dig in and find out.
Looking Back to Look Ahead
A season ago, the then-Marlins catcher truly had no equal at the position. He finished third in the power department with 21 long balls, which was a career-best mark fueled by a .208 isolated power (ISO). Realmuto led catchers in batting average, on-base percentage and runs scored, and by a pretty hefty margin at that.
But we aren't drafting this year for past production. We need to be forward-looking in our thought process, so below are some projections for Realmuto's 2019, courtesy of Fangraphs.
Most sites have pretty reasonable numbers for him, having Realmuto basically replicating his plate appearances, power, and runs scored and RBI marks. But is he worth an early-round selection?
Among His Peers
In ascertaining Realmuto's draft day value, it's important to understand the context of the players going around him, along with the potential impact the park shift could have on his production. Let's focus on the top tier catchers first.
The New York Yankees' Gary Sanchez is 1-B to Realmuto's 1-A status, and he's looking to climb back from a disappointing 2018. Currently C2 at pick 58.50, Sanchez hit under the Mendoza line with a .186 batting average a year ago, while still managing to rip 18 home runs in 374 plate appearances (1 home run per 20.8 PAs). That's a far cry from the 33 homers he hit across 525 play appearances in 2017 (1 home run per 15.9 PAs).
The only other catcher within shouting distance of these two is Salvador Perez, who led all catchers with 27 home runs a season ago. The tradeoff with Perez -- and he will play a lot to rack up those counting stats -- is a low .235 batting average, which did represent a career-low mark for the 28-year-old vet.
The question remains: is trading off power for average -- and possibly a few steals -- worth it for Realmuto? Or could he look to capitalize on more pop at the plate?
Traveling nearly 1,200 miles north, Realmuto may never have been so happy once this deal went through. While he popped a solid 21 homers last year, there could be some major helium coming to this number. Let's peek at Philly's Citizens Bank Park and Miami's Marlins Mark ranked in 2018, thanks to Baseball Prospectus' Park Factor by Handedness (ranks are out of 60, with 1 being the best; for ratings, the higher the better):
|Park Factor||Park Factor Rank||HR Factor||HR Factor Rank|
Essentially, Realmuto put up stud numbers in the worst hitting park in baseball for right-handed batters, and he is going to a place that is a haven for run-scoring and pop from the right side.
Realmuto's home/road splits suggest as much, too.
The gap here is staggering. In nearly an even number of plate appearances between Marlins Park and on the road, Realmuto has performed like a boss outside of Miami.
In 2018, Realmuto hit .283 in 282 plate appearances on the road, smacking 13 home runs with a .236 ISO and .373 wOBA. It's scary to extrapolate those numbers and call it science, but if we double his road plate appearances from last year, we could be looking at a 25-plus homer, 90-run, 90-RBI season. And that doesn't account for the fact that he is traveling to one of the most hitter-friendly parks in all of baseball.
The catcher position has a major lack of quality options behind the dish this season, and arguably the best one just got a major park upgrade after yesterday's trade news. Currently a late fifth-round draft pick, some may elect to wait on the position -- and that could be a mistake.
Factoring in position scarcity, fantasy owners could be treated to a plethora of jacks in 2019, and passing on Realmuto could be a major mistake.