UPDATE: 2/18/21 at 5pm ET -- From Greg Jewett: In light of reports about Realmuto fracturing his right thumb may affect his power during the season. This needs to be baked into his projection sets, especially if he's not ready by Opening Day. Monitor this closely as news evolves.


Repeating his title as the most valuable fantasy player at his position, J.T. Realmuto received a five-year $115 million dollar contract to remain in Philadelphia. In 2020, he played in 47 games with 33 runs, 11 home runs, 32 RBI and four stolen bases slashing .266/.349/.491 over 195 plate appearances. Among his peers at catcher, Realmuto tied for first in home run while tying for second in both RBI and extra-base hits (17). Fun facts, he launched seven of his 11 home runs in two-strike counts plus hit a robust .386/.500/.591 versus left-handed pitching in 54 plate appearances last year.

For the third straight season, Realmuto notched an isolated power (ISO) above .200 with a .225 mark in 2020 with a walk rate of 8.2-percent, a 24.6 strikeout percentage and .361 weighted on-base average (wOBA). While fantasy owners enjoy the recent power output, Realmuto's metrics on Fangraphs prove confounding. He registered a career worst swinging strike percentage (12.1), his lowest contact rate (73.2-percent) and lowest Z-Contact (in the strike zone) percent of his career at 80.3 yet somehow recorded his best O-Swing (outside the zone) at 28.1 percent. Small sample size variance?

According to Statcast, Realmuto produced 125 batted ball events with 17 barrels (13.6-percent), a 90.2 MPH average exit velocity and 42.4 hard hit rate. Once again though, Realmuto's underlying numbers come with a grain of salt. His expected statistics reveal a .248 expected batting average (xBA), a .499 expected slugging (xSLG) and .344 expected weighted on-base average (xwOBA). His xwOBA disparity reflected below his actual represents the first time since 2016 it's happened for Realmuto. Seeing the xBA so low may be an outlier due to his .278 xBA combined since 2015, but it needs to be explored further since expected statistics on Statcast measure quality of contact.

Starting with Realmuto's zone contact percentage, it declined for a third straight season finishing at a career low since 2015 at 77.4-percent. Thankfully his chase and chase contact percentages also declined. However, despite reducing his swing percentage, Realmuto's whiff rate climbed by six percent. Realmuto also struggled against fastballs in 2020 evidenced by his whiff percentage rising by 10 percent versus them. Beneath the power, Realmuto's ground ball rate grew by over nine points to 48.8 percent, a level not seen since 2017 while still in Miami. Again, it could be a blip but one cannot ignore results.

What sets Realmuto apart from his peers, speed. His 84th percentile mark in the speed rating on Statcast reinforces his ability to produce the handful of stolen bases which adds to his fantasy value each season. Realmuto truthers can take solace in this.

In an effort to expand his sample size starting with his production in Philadelphia, here's his career numbers with the franchise:

  • Realmuto last 2 years in Philadelphia: 192 games, 788 plate appearances, 125 runs, 36 home runs, 115 RBI, 13 stolen bases; .273/.333/.492, 7.2 BB%, 21.8 K%, .219 ISO, .344 wOBA

Adapting to his new surroundings, Realmuto's taken his power to a new level as evidenced by his spray chart from this sample:

Although he hits up the middle often, Realmuto focuses his home runs to the right-center and left-center alleys along with down the lines. Keep tabs on his ground ball rate in 2021 since his launch angle reduction coincided with more ground balls last season. Here's Realmuto's radial chart from the last two years including launch angle and exit velocity:

Due to his reliability and lineup spot, Realmuto hit cleanup in 43 games last year, he's one of the only catchers with insulated counting statistics given health. With this in mind, here's three projection sets for Realmuto:

  • Realmuto 2021 THE BAT X projection: 139 games, 586 plate appearances, 82 runs, 26 home runs, 82 RBI, nine stolen bases; .272/.336/.485
  • Realmuto 2021 ZiPS projection: 139 games, 571 plate appearances, 84 runs, 26 home runs, 98 RBI, eight stolen bases; .272/.333/.490
  • Realmuto 2021 ATC projection: 140 games, 571 plate appearances, 82 runs, 25 home runs, 81 RBI, nine stolen bases; .268/.332/.477

Assessing if Realmuto can overcome his zone contact issues and whiff rates from 2020 may determine his overall results in 2021. Entering his Age-30 season, Realmuto's shown enough to warrant remaining the first catcher taken status in drafts but his hold on the spot gets a bit more tenuous with the field closing the gap ever so slightly. Staying in Philadelphia supports his power but heed his RBI pace from the last two years which aligns more closely with THE BAT X and ATC, ZiPS feels a bit too aggressive.

Now one must decide if they're willing to pay the Realmuto tax in upcoming drafts and auctions. If so, at what price to other positions or statistical target points. Choose wisely.

Statistical Credits:



THE BAT X courtesy of Derek Carty

ZiPS courtesy of Dan Szymborski

ATC courtesy of Ariel Cohen