JT Realmuto and Anderson are central to the Marlins future plans
The Miami Marlins are known for their many rebuilding projects since their last playoff appearance, but they always knew a superstar talent when they see it.
That’s the case for JT Realmuto. Slashing .289/.339/.499 with 14 home runs and 54 RBI, Realmuto is statistically one of the best catchers in baseball. Which means if the Marlins are serious in trying to mimic the Houston Astros way of success, that would mean identifying Realmuto as their Jose Altuve and signing him long term is central to that blueprint.
“J.T. in my opinion is at right at the top of the list as being one of the best all-around catchers in baseball,”Marlins CEO Derek Jeter told reporters on Wednesday. “He is a guy we would love to have here long term.”
Realmuto was a first-time All-Star this season and the Marlins’ lone selection. That led to a moment that suggested the Washington Nationals were in hot pursuit of him during the trade deadline. During the All-Star team photo moment, Bryce Harper took Realmuto’s Marlins cap and replaced it with a Nationals cap.
The Marlins bucked on the Nationals’ trade offer and it was Realmuto who knocked in a walk-off knock against them during the weekend of the trade deadline. That led to a gem of a quote from Harper.
“If that guy was on our side,” he said, “that wouldn’t have happened.”
After this season, Realmuto will enter his first year of salary arbitration but will not be a free agent until after the 2020 season. He will be 30 years old at that time, which will then beg the question of if a long term deal occurs, how long should it be? Even though the Marlins have not yet sat down with Realmuto about a potential contract extension and there was a time in which he wanted to be traded after the team traded off their four best players, Jeter views the catcher as a potential cornerstone player.
“The way he’s been able to improve year in and year out, especially this year, he’s taken some strides offensively, but even more so defensively,” Jeter said. “He’s someone that consistently continues to improve.”
Jeter also had something to said about the National League Rookie of the Year race. Marlins third baseman turned right fielder Brain Anderson is batting .285 leads all rookies in hits (128), runs (64) and RBI (53) and has played the most games (117). His closest competition is Nationals’ teenage outfielder Juan Soto, who has hit .303 with 14 home runs and 41 RBI in 72 games.
“He should be at the top of the list when anyone talks about Rookie of the Year,” Jeter said. “It’s the bottom line. What he’s been able to do from day 1 in this organization and the consistency he’s shown. You have to realize he’s a third baseman and he’s playing right field. That’s not easy to do.”
It’s interesting to note that the Marlins top two hitters are both from Oklahoma. While states like Texas, Florida, California and Virginia produce the bulk of domestic baseball talent in the big leagues, Oklahoma has swiftly become a state worthy of recognition as a talent hub.
“It’s not quite as concentrated as Florida or California but there’s a lot of talent there,” Anderson said. “There’s definitely some caliber, absolutely. Especially over the last 5-10 years, there’s been a lot of guys that have started coming out, guys who are having big numbers.”
In Oklahoma, the baseball season usually extends into the summer, going from the high school season of the spring into legion/travel ball seasons in the summer. Anderson said he faced college equivalent pitching while playing in the highest level of high school ball there.
Anderson (Edmond) and Realmuto (Midwest City) were drafted by the Marlins four years apart but are only two years apart. Realmuto was drafted out of Carl Albert High School while Anderson went on to play college ball at Arkansas prior to being drafted. The two never played a full season together until this year with the Marlins, which is where the two began to bond over their Oklahoma origins.
Anderson is going through a slump in August, going 3 for 20 in his past five games. Marlins manager Don Mattingly showed no cause for concern that the slump is anything more than temporary.
“They’re throwing the ball a little more in on him and up,” Mattingly said. “One of the things you saw early in the year — they tried to spin him a lot and that worked for a little, but he made adjustments. Now they’re trying to elevate the ball on him more and I think he can hit the high ball, but you get velocity up there it’s a tough pace to hit. Either you learn to hit better or you leave it alone.”
The success of these two young players have been the story of the Marlins season and will also be the key to their next playoff run.