2016 Fantasy Baseball: Breakout Players — J.T. Realmuto
Most teams are approaching the 40 game mark for games played. When you get to the quarter pole suddenly we are leaving “it’s still early” mantra and are beginning to look at what is going on with individual players. So, we can begin to look at players that are surprising us at this point in the season. In every season and at every position there are players that were picked outside of the top ten of their position, but who ended up wildly outproducing their draft position.
Coming into the season, J.T. Realmuto was ranked at the 18th best catcher according to Yahoo. Even in ESPN leagues, he is still owned in a little more than 60 percent of leagues. Obviously, few people expected him to be a frontline catcher. However, if we look at the numbers from the first 40 games (through May 14th) you can see that he has certainly elevated his profile considerably.
Where he ranks
The five players listed above Realmuto were the first five catchers off of most boards. Of course, this does not include Kyle Schwarber since he went down with a torn ACL early in the season. As you can see, Realmuto may not be an elite offensive catcher yet, but he compares favorably with the guys that were taken off the top of the board.
When compared to the catchers with at least 90 plate appearances, Realmuto ranks towards the middle of the pack with 91 wRC+ and a .314 wOBA. That puts him at the end of the top ten in most of the aggregate offensive categories. From this point, the question is whether he can sustain it.
The Advanced Numbers
Unfortunately, we only have two years to go on with Realmuto, so it is hard to say whether what we are seeing is a trend or not, but when you look at the numbers you can either assume that he underperformed last season or that his current numbers are unsustainable. In particular, the low walk numbers are a little disturbing. However, when we look at the plate discipline rates we get a idea of what is going on.
Scouts often talk about the hit tool. The talk about the hit tool often ignores what we might charitably call plate discipline. Sometimes those two can blend together and are difficult to separate. When we look at the difference between contact on pitches outside the zone and inside the zone we can see a good breakdown of the difference between the hit tool and plate discipline tool. The hit tool can loosely be defined as the ability to put the bat on the ball. As you can see, when Realmuto swings at pitches inside the zone he makes fairly consistent contact between 2015 and 2016. The difference comes on contact of pitches outside the zone.
The MLB average on swinging at pitches outside the zone is 30 percent. So, Realmuto has some plate discipline issues, but he seems to have a well-developed hit tool. The big league average for contact tends to hover around 80 percent and he is well above that in spite of the fact that he swings at more pitches than most big leaguers. In five category leagues, he is still a very viable option.
One of the easiest things to do is to take the numbers and simply project them out to a full season. If you simply take the current numbers and multiply it out it would be pretty easy. Unfortunately, we probably aren’t going to see that from most players. Some players will perform better and some players will perform worse. Realmuto has a higher than normal BABIP given all of the other numbers. If we assume he will hit .300 according to BABIP we can project some numbers for him.
We obviously can expect his average to dip some given the fact that his BABIP is a little out of context to this point, but as compared to other catchers he can really fill up the stat sheet. He adds the element of speed where most other catchers do not. So, if he is available in your league he could be a decent option if you have issues at catcher. According to Yahoo, he is still available in 31 percent of leagues. He is available in nearly 40 percent of ESPN leagues. So, there are still some people that could benefit from his services.