jorge alfaro

Marlins add 2 ex-Phillies with roster depleted by COVID outbreak

Marlins add 2 ex-Phillies with roster depleted by COVID outbreak

In need of players after 17 of their 30 reportedly tested positive for COVID-19, the Marlins have agreed to deals with a couple of recent ex-Phillies.

The Marlins have added utilityman Logan Forsythe, who was granted his release ahead of opening day by the Phillies after he was told he wouldn't make the team, and Mike Morin, a right-handed reliever who made 29 appearances with the 2019 Phils.

The Marlins will continue to make moves like this because, when their season continues, they will need a semblance of big-league quality talent to be competitive with such a large portion of their roster unavailable.

There are now seven players in the Marlins' 60-man pool and injured list who previously spent time in the Phillies organization. Beyond the two new additions, there's Corey Dickerson, Jorge Alfaro, Jonathan Villar, Sean Rodriguez and Sixto Sanchez. 

There was a belief that Sanchez could join the Marlins early in their 2020 campaign but that no longer appears to be the case. Sanchez did not pitch in spring training and is still building arm strength and stamina at the Marlins' satellite site in Jupiter, Fla.

Sanchez, of course, was the Phillies' top prospect before they traded him to Miami with Alfaro for J.T. Realmuto in February 2019. Sanchez, who turned 22 on Wednesday, entered the season as MLB.com's 22nd-ranked prospect.

Villar was traded by the Phillies 10 years ago this week with J.A. Happ and Anthony Gose to the Astros for Roy Oswalt. Villar has turned into a pretty good big-league infielder over his eight seasons in Houston, Milwaukee, Baltimore and now Miami. His best year was 2016 when he hit .285 for the Brewers with an .826 OPS, 19 homers and 62 stolen bases.

Dickerson went 4 for 13 in the season-opening series against the Phillies and homered off of Nick Pivetta. Had the Phillies known last offseason that the DH would be coming to the National League, they may have made more of an effort to re-sign Dickerson, who raked here last season but didn't have an everyday spot in the outfield.

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J.T. Realmuto hustles to Clearwater, can't wait to hit in Philly

J.T. Realmuto hustles to Clearwater, can't wait to hit in Philly

CLEARWATER, Fla. — J.T. Realmuto knew he was going somewhere. So, back home in Oklahoma City, he and his wife packed their bags last week and waited for the phone call that would tell them which way to start driving.

"We didn't want to head to Florida and get traded to [a team that trains in] Arizona," he said with a laugh.

The call came Thursday afternoon. Realmuto had been traded to the Phillies. Go east, young man, you've become the latest star player to escape the rebuilding Miami Marlins.

Realmuto wasted no time joining his new team. He and his wife, Lexi, and infant daughter, Grace, drove through the night Thursday and arrived in Clearwater late Friday afternoon. Pitchers and catchers will go through their first official workout of the spring on Wednesday. Realmuto joined the gang of earlier arrivers for a workout on Saturday morning and has already caught one of Aaron Nola's bullpen sessions.

"This is definitely an organization that I'm proud to play for and I'm happy to be here," he said Tuesday.

Realmuto, who turns 28 in March, is widely hailed as the best catcher in baseball. He made his first All-Star team last season but finished in last place with a stripped-down Marlins team that is still in the early stages of a rebuild. Realmuto saw some of his teammates, including eventual NL MVP Christian Yelich, get traded away last winter and made it known to Marlins officials that he wanted to be dealt to a team with a chance to win. It took the entire offseason and a lot of rumors du jour, but he got his wish.

"It was definitely a different offseason for me and my wife," he said. "We spent more time on social media than we ever have in our lives, just trying to find out if anybody knows any scoop that we didn't know. It was a little stressful, a little different for us, but we're definitely happy with the outcome."

And he's happy he won't be playing half his games in spacious Marlins Park anymore. Realmuto hit .277 with 30 doubles, 21 homers, 74 RBIs and an .825 OPS for the Marlins last season. He did much of his damage on the road, where his OPS was .870, compared to .773 at home.

Over his career, he has hit .309 with a .848 OPS in 280 games on the road and .245 with a .678 OPS in 260 games in Marlins Park.

"It's definitely tough," he said. "I can count too many times that I felt like I crushed a ball in Marlins Park only to watch Odubel Herrera dive in center field and catch it at the wall. So it will be nice to get out of there and — not that Citizens Bank Park is any slouch, you still have to hit the ball well, but it will be nice knowing if you get a ball, you have a chance of getting it out. In Marlins Park, sometimes you felt like you got all of it and you were flying out to center field, not even getting a double out of it. You were running back to the dugout. So it will be nice to not have that situation.

"I felt like some of my issues in Marlins Park were that I knew it was so big and sometimes maybe I tried to do a little too much and got out of my strengths. I'd muscle up and try to hit the ball too far, which over time can really create problems. I think just being able to play in a park that is more hitter-friendly will give me more confidence and I'll try not to do too much and just take things as they come and that will help me out tremendously."

As a visitor to Citizens Bank Park, Realmuto hit .282 with eight doubles, four homers, 13 RBIs and a .788 OPS in 28 games.

Phillies officials believe Realmuto will have as much impact on the team's pitching and defense as he does on the offense. Last week, GM Matt Klentak mentioned that Realmuto's blocking ability would give pitchers confidence to try to get hitters to chase balls in the dirt. Ask Brad Lidge how important that is. He always knew Carlos Ruiz would block his dirt-diving sliders.

"I've definitely studied all of them multiple times just by facing them," Realmuto said of the Phillies pitchers. "There's a lot of great arms on this team, a lot of young guys with electric stuff, guys that are getting better. From top to bottom, this entire rotation has quality, plus stuff and they've all gotten better. I look forward to helping them continue their improvement."

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A closer look at what makes J.T. Realmuto the best catcher in baseball

A closer look at what makes J.T. Realmuto the best catcher in baseball

J.T. Realmuto has been a Phillie for one day and you've probably already heard a few dozen times that he's the best catcher in baseball.

In a column in support of the trade Thursday, I referred to Realmuto as the only catcher in baseball you could argue possesses all five tools.

Let's elaborate ...

Receiving and blocking the ball

This feels like the right place to start, given Jorge Alfaro's glaring deficiencies catching the baseball in 2018. 

Realmuto blocked 90.5 percent of potential wild pitches last season, according to Sports Info Solutions.

Alfaro blocked 86.5 percent. 

May sound like an insignificant difference, but Alfaro's rate was the worst among all major-league catchers. And truthfully, the percentage could've been even lower considering some of the balls Alfaro missed weren't even potential wild pitches.

In terms of runs saved by blocking balls, Realmuto ranked ninth among all big-league catchers with at least 3,000 chances last season.

Alfaro ranked 112th out of 115 catchers.

Arm strength

Alfaro's arm was the strongest among all MLB catchers last season, per Statcast, at 90.8 mph. 

Realmuto ranked second at 87.8 mph.

In 2016 and 2017, Realmuto ranked third. In 2015, he ranked first. There is a large sample size of Realmuto's arm strength being among the best in baseball, if not the best.

Throwing out runners

"Pop time" is a crucial stat for catchers. It measures, in seconds, how quickly the catcher releases the ball on a stolen base attempt. 

The MLB average pop time is 2.01 seconds.

In 2018, Realmuto had the best pop time in baseball: 1.90 seconds.

Alfaro ranked third at 1.94. 

In 2016 and 2017, Realmuto ranked second-best in pop time with the same mark of 1.90 seconds.

Realmuto's exchange — how quickly the ball transfers from his mitt to his throwing arm on a stolen base attempt — is also among the best in baseball. The MLB average time hovers around 0.85 seconds. Realmuto ranked fourth at 0.68 seconds; Alfaro was 17th at 0.73 seconds.

Speed

Realmuto has graded out as MLB's fastest catcher four years in a row. 

The MLB average sprint speed on a competitive play is 27 feet per second. Among catchers, who are obviously slower, it's 25 feet per second.

Realmuto has been between 28.6 and 28.8 feet per second every year since 2015.

Offense

Offensively, you don't need to dig too deep to see why Realmuto is an elite option. 

Over the last three seasons, despite playing in a gigantic, pitcher-friendly ballpark and with little lineup protection around him, Realmuto hit .286/.338/.454. 

He had a .792 OPS. The MLB average OPS for catchers during the same time frame was .699.

Realmuto's batting average was 57 points higher than the average catcher.

His OBP was 30 points higher.

His slugging percentage was 63 points higher.

Where Alfaro had the edge

The only category in which Alfaro was superior to Realmuto in 2018 was with pitch-framing. Alfaro graded out as a top-five pitch-framer. However, Alfaro's focus on catching the ball perfectly prevented him from catching it cleanly many times. That was the trade-off.

The Phillies worked tirelessly to develop Alfaro into an upper echelon pitch-framer. They should be able to do something similar with Realmuto, who doesn't lack any of Alfaro's tools.

If Realmuto's pitch-framing improves in 2019, the gap between he and Alfaro could grow from about a 2.5-win difference to closer to 4.0 wins. 

For a team in the Phillies' position, a team on the precipice of contention, every additional win carries great importance.

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