The Philadelphia Phillies need to plan for the future at catcher. This is because J.T. Realmuto will not be able to play there forever. In the past week, Realmuto has had a few scares behind home plate. The first incident was against the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday when he got hit in the throat by a Zack Wheeler pitch. He came out of the game and was replaced by Garrett Stubbs. However, Realmuto returned to play the following day. Then on Friday against the Pittsburgh Pirates, the 33-year-old catcher was hit on the wrist on a pitch that he and Yunior Marté miscommunicated on. This time, Realmuto remained in the game. The following game saw him have a previously scheduled day off. Traditionally, Stubbs catches during day games that directly follow a night game.

The Phillies Need to Plan for the Future at Catcher

Realmuto Should Scale Back Catching Duties

In the four full seasons Realmuto has been with the Phillies, he has caught at least 115 games in each. In both 2022 and 2023, he caught 133 games, making 130 starts at catcher in each of those seasons. The last time Realmuto started a game in the field at a position other than catcher was on October 3, 2021, when he made his most recent start at first base. That season, Realmuto made a career-high 16 appearances at first base. Now 33, he probably will not be able to catch this many games in a season for much longer. His additional defensive experience includes 51 appearances (27 starts) at first base and 21 appearances as a designated hitter (19 starts).

While Realmuto should still be the regular catcher, it is time for the Phillies to consider scaling back his catching appearances. Having him play first base more often than he currently does would be good for his long-term future. However, this would mean having Bryce Harper or Kyle Schwarber play in the outfield occasionally. It remains to be seen if Harper will play the outfield again at all after moving to first base last season, and Schwarber is not great defensively, hence why he’s used as the Phillies designated hitter. Interestingly, though, both Harper and Schwarber were catchers in college before moving to other positions during their professional careers.

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Looking at Phillies Catching Prospects

Three of the Phillies’ current MLB Pipeline Top 30 prospects are catchers. The team’s ninth-ranked prospect, Eduardo Tait, is the highest-ranked of the trio. Meanwhile, Caleb Ricketts and Kehden Hettiger are ranked 21st and 22nd respectively. Ricketts is projected to reach the majors first among the group. As of now, he is expected to reach the majors next season. Currently, Ricketts is playing for Double-A Reading while Hettiger is playing for Single-A Clearwater. Tait played in the Dominican Summer League last season. In 2023, Ricketts made appearances at three different levels after playing for Class-A Clearwater in 2022. Hettiger played for the Phillies Florida Complex League rookie team during the 2023 season.

Of these three prospects, Tait, who is 17, appears to have the brightest future in the long term. Last season in the Dominican Summer League, he had a .333/.400/.517 line with three home runs and 36 RBI in 44 games. However, Tait is not projected to reach the majors until 2028. In addition, Hettiger is not projected to reach the majors until 2027. This means Stubbs and potentially Ricketts would see increased playing time at catcher if Realmuto scales back catching duties, at least until Tait reaches the majors. That is not necessarily the worst thing, but the Phillies could improve their backup catcher position. Besides Realmuto and Stubbs, the Phillies have only one other catcher on the 40-man roster. That would be

 

Photo Credit: © Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

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