The Phillies couldn't really afford to not re-sign J.T. Realmuto, and they finally did the obvious, agreeing to a five-year, $115.5 million deal that will give Realmuto the highest average salary of any catcher in MLB history. Realmuto's return to the Phillies adds some certainty to his outlook for the 2021 season, just in time for draft season to really get started.
Of course, it's not like the uncertainty has really impacted Realmuto's Fantasy value so far. In NFBC drafts since Jan. 1, he has an average draft position of 33.4, making him not just the No. 1 catcher, but the only catcher currently going inside of the top 70 overall and one of just three inside of the top 100. Is he worth that price?
It might be a bit rich for my blood -- I have him 55th overall in Roto leagues -- but I agree with him being the only true difference-maker at the catcher position. Salvador Perez is my No. 2 catcher, and he's No. 152. Positional scarcity doesn't really matter much at this point in Fantasy baseball, but catcher is still the lone exception, and Realmuto is the only player at the position you would even consider starting if you didn't have to have a catcher spot in your lineup. At a position where you are mostly just hoping you won't get hurt, Realmuto can really help.
Realmuto had another strong season in 2020, hitting .266/.349/.491, his third straight season with an ISO over .200. He's a rare five-category contributor at catcher, capable of stealing up to 10 bases, and he should be good for 20-25 homers in a full season, especially now that he's returning to Philly. And he's a workhorse, ranking second at the position in games and plate appearances over the last two seasons, compounding his edge on the competition: He has 19 more runs than the No. 2 catcher and 31 more than No. 3 over the last two season; he has 11 more RBI than No. 2 as well.
The only red flag in his profile, if you're looking for one, is a career-high 24.6% strikeout rate in 2020. But considering that he more than doubled his barrel rate from 2019, it's hardly a concern. Given the small sample size. Realmuto is the best catcher in Fantasy and also the most sure thing -- Will Smith and Salvador Perez were better in 2020, but neither has the track record to back that up -- which makes him well worth the premium you're going to pay for him.
And it's good news for the Phillies pitchers as well, as Realmuto has turned into one of the best defensive catchers in baseball, especially as a pitch framer. It's not a huge deal, but it's just more reason to like Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler at least. The Phillies couldn't afford not to bring Realmuto back, and we're glad to see him back.