Around the Horn: Catcher

Marlins to rely on Realmuto's breakout speed, power in 2016

Around the Horn: Catcher

Pitchers and catchers open Spring Training for the Marlins on Feb. 19 at the Roger Dean Stadium complex in Jupiter, Fla. Full-squad workouts get underway on Feb. 23. As the workout dates approach, MLB.com takes a position-by-position look at the 2016 Marlins. The latest installment: Catchers.

MIAMI -- Opportunity knocked ahead of schedule for J.T. Realmuto last April, and the Oklahoma native made the most of it. By necessity, the 24-year-old was promoted from Triple-A New Orleans to the big leagues, and a few weeks later, he became the Marlins' everyday catcher.

Previously considered the organization's "catcher of the future," Realmuto's advancement was accelerated, and he's now regarded as one of the core pieces on the roster and an emerging leader in the clubhouse.

The future certainly is bright for Realmuto, arguably the most athletic catcher the franchise has ever had.

A former high school quarterback, Realmuto was a prep standout at shortstop. Miami selected him in the third round of the 2010 Draft, and he was immediately converted to catcher.

In 2015, Realmuto set a record for a Marlins catcher with seven triples, topping the six recorded by Benito Santiago in 1993. He also swiped eight bases.

Rarely do you find a catcher who is a speed threat. Realmuto also has power potential. He belted 10 home runs, with one being an inside-the-park shot at Marlins Park.

Realmuto's inside-the-parker

All the attributes to be an All-Star-caliber catcher are there. It's a matter of the 6-foot-1, 205-pounder letting his game develop.

Last year at this time, Miami planned to go with the veteran catching tandem of Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jeff Mathis. Realmuto, who was part of Double-A Jacksonville's Southern League championship team in 2014, was scheduled to open at Triple-A.

The thinking was that a full year in the Minors would groom Realmuto to step in perhaps as early as 2016. But in the often unpredictable world of Major League Baseball, plans change.

Mathis suffered a hand fracture in early April, and at the time, Saltalamacchia was struggling. So Realmuto found himself in the Marlins' lineup on April 13. A couple of weeks later, Saltalamacchia was designated for assignment, and the organization's catcher of the future had arrived.

Realmuto nabs Rupp

Realmuto appeared in 116 games and logged 1,025 1/3 innings behind the plate. His slash line was .259/.290/.406 with 47 RBIs and 49 runs scored.

With the starting job his, Miami is looking for Realmuto to be a fiery take-charge player behind the plate. Defensively, Realmuto threw out 16 runners, committed six errors, had 11 passed balls and posted a .993 fielding percentage.

The Marlins maintained continuity at catcher by signing Mathis, who was a free agent. Mathis' experience and clubhouse presence make him a valued member of the team. The 32-year-old also has helped in Realmuto's development.

Mathis throws out den Dekker

Miami doesn't have a lot of organizational catching depth. Bringing Mathis back allows prospect Tomas Telis to get regular playing time at New Orleans rather than serve as Realmuto's backup.

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.