Phillies

Yankees' interest in improving at catcher is bad, bad news for Phillies

Phillies

The Yankees have 13 more home runs from their catchers the last three seasons than any team in baseball, but even they are looking to upgrade behind the plate.

It's not unexpected, but it's more bad news for the Phillies with J.T. Realmuto.

Speaking with reporters Wednesday, Yankees GM Brian Cashman said it was "certainly a fair question" whether Gary Sanchez would be their catcher in 2021.

There is no upside to responding like that unless you're serious about exploring alternatives.

Sanchez, an All-Star in 2017 and 2019, hit .147 this season with a .253 on-base percentage. He struck out in more than 40% of his at-bats. 

Sanchez's five passed balls led the American League. In the last two seasons, he's thrown out 16 of 66 base-stealers, which is 3% below the league average.

Sanchez had just nine plate appearances in the Yankees' seven playoff games. He lost his job to 30-year-old Kyle Higashioka, a .186 career hitter.

"I think it's certainly a fair question obviously the way Gary Sanchez' season transpired, and then the way it ended with Higashioka actually starting in the postseason as many games as he did," Cashman said. "I think it's one of the discussion points we're going to have to focus on."

Much has written about the Mets' interest in Realmuto but the Yankees (and maybe even the Dodgers) could be a bigger threat. Why? Because they’re loaded, playing for a championship rather than a playoff berth, have spent tons of money to improve at other positions and Realmuto could be the biggest difference-maker on the market.

 

Among catchers who have played at least 150 games over the last three seasons, Realmuto ranks:

  • 1st in extra-base hits (by 15)
  • 2nd in slugging percentage (.493)
  • 3rd in OPS (.830)
  • 4th in batting average (.274)

According to MLB's Statcast data, Realmuto was the second-most-effective catcher in baseball this season framing pitches, behind only Omar Narvaez. 

Realmuto's pop time, which measures the quickness of a catcher's release and his arm strength, has ranked first in the majors every year since 2017.

Realmuto also led all big-league catchers in speed from home to first base. 

He's not just called the best catcher in baseball because it's fun to say. He's viewed that way because he can hit but does so much more. He fields and runs better than anyone at his position and is one of the few players who could make an everyday difference for titans like the Yankees and Dodgers.