J.T. Realmuto is finally on the move, and the Philadelphia Phillies now have one of the best catchers in baseball. But how will this affect your fantasy baseball drafts? Our experts break down the trade from both sides.
Eric Karabell: Some might look at the 2018 hitting statistics for incoming Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto and say they are nothing special and certainly not worth the return of Jorge Alfaro and top pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez headed to the Miami Marlins. Well, Realmuto finished last season as the No. 142 option on the Player Rater, which is hardly awesome, but he was the best at the position, by a large margin. Oh, and by the way, he hit .277 with 21 home runs and 74 RBIs playing for a dreadful offense, with little talent surrounding him, and in arguably the most pitcher-friendly ballpark in the sport.
That changes in Philadelphia, where many a home run is hit and the lineup is deep with talent, albeit a bit too right-handed. (Bring in Bryce Harper and ... wow.) Citizens Bank Park ranked fourth in baseball for home run Park Factors and 12th in runs scored. Marlins Park was last for power and second-to-last in runs. Realmuto was already my top catcher in the rankings -- for roto and points leagues -- but now rises several rounds in the overall picture to a borderline top-50 pick. We do not know where Realmuto hits in the lineup, but regardless, his numbers should rise.
Fantasy managers actually lose a reasonable, reasonably exciting catching option because Alfaro in Miami is obviously not as enticing. Alfaro has power, but in that ballpark, and with the mess around him, and his lack of plate discipline, look elsewhere. And as for Sanchez, the right-hander is only 20 but shorter than most every starting pitcher in the big leagues; with durability issues, keep him around in dynasty formats, but as the Phillies did, always trade a prospect for immediate aid if you can win now. Most prospects struggle, especially on the pitching side. Sanchez might not pitch in the majors for several years, if at all. Win now!
Tristan H. Cockcroft: The Miami Marlins held out quite a while -- the first serious indications that J.T. Realmuto would be traded began right around their trades of Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich -- but their return in trade for Realmuto was indeed a good one, even for fantasy baseball purposes. The problem with their haul of Jorge Alfaro, Sixto Sanchez and Will Stewart in fantasy terms, though, is that we might have to wait awhile for those players to pay dividends.
Alfaro immediately takes over for Realmuto, and he's every bit as likely (and perhaps more so) to receive a lot of playing time, with a distinct possibility that if he's up to the task he'll register a top-five number of plate appearances among catchers. Alfaro isn't much in terms of plate discipline, though, and he's moving from the majors' second-best ballpark for home runs in the past five seasons combined (1.220 park factor) to the second-worst (0.768), not to mention those rankings expanding to first (1.294) and last (0.715) for right-handed hitters. That'll hurt him in the one bankable fantasy category he currently offers, and he'll probably have to settle for a bottom-half lineup spot that diminishes his runs, RBIs and plate appearances per game due to the Marlins' weak offense.
Alfaro really didn't gain at all in terms of 2018 value, sliding back two spots to No. 11 at catcher in my rankings -- though keep in mind that he held only a seven-overall-spot advantage over my previous No. 11, Mike Zunino, so he, new No. 9 Austin Hedges and Zunino are all extremely close in draft value -- but he's really not in all that much worse shape in the long term due to his likely franchise-catcher status on a team that played Realmuto a ton in past years.
Sanchez is the interesting acquisition, a top-80 starting pitcher in my 2018 season-ending dynasty rankings who has a 2.48 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 4.9 percent walk rate in 48 professional appearances (39 of them starts). He's a smallish pitcher, at 6 feet, 185 pounds, so you'll naturally hear as many questions about his ability to hold up long term at that size as you will comparisons to Pedro Martinez from the "successful comps" standpoint. Sanchez's raw ability seems like front-of-a-rotation, so he's one of the few lower-level prospects worth stashing in a keeper/dynasty league, and he'll probably move a lot more quickly through the Marlins' system than the Phillies'. Stewart, who was 8-1 with a 2.06 ERA in 20 starts for Class A Lakewood, is another interesting prospect who could warrant keeper consideration with another strong year in the lower minors in 2019. It'd need to be a true dynasty format for him to be worth the stash now.
By the way, this deal isn't especially good news for other Marlins hitters, who will inevitably suffer in losing Realmuto's stronger all-around hitting game. This team might well bat Miguel Rojas, Starlin Castro, Brian Anderson and Peter O'Brien 1 through 4, giving it excellent odds of again ranking last in runs per game as a team. Keep in mind the drawbacks of that: fewer PAs due to the lineup turning over less frequently on a nightly basis, and fewer runs/RBIs all around.