The start of 2024 means that the opening of MLB Spring Training is just around the corner, a little over a month and a half away. In preparation for the 2024 MLB season, dynasty fantasy baseball players will start gearing up to scout and analyze players’ performances from 2023 to determine who they should add and who to let go this coming season to field the best possible fantasy team.
When looking at the catching category in dynasty fantasy baseball, Baseball America recently released an informative piece (subscription required) that predicts potential targets, sleepers, and a fade at the backstop position for the 2024 season. Unfortunately for the Philadelphia Phillies, they happen to own the lone candidate named the player to fade: star catcher J.T. Realmuto.
Without a doubt, Realmuto has been one of the top well-rounded catchers in the league for the past few years, displaying a combination of potent offense to go along with his steady, solid defense. He has been named an All-Star three times, along with capturing both Silver Slugger and Gold Glove Awards twice each in the process.
More importantly for fantasy baseball purposes, as Baseball America pointed out, he has been a top-four fantasy catcher for the past three seasons, including adding some additional value in the stolen base category compared to many of his counterparts.
Realmuto fell from his fantasy perch in 2023
Despite Realmuto’s elite resumé, they believe that a true decline in skills is forthcoming. Last year he registered his lowest fWAR, walk rate, and hard-hit rate, along with his highest strikeout rate in the past seven seasons.
Going into 2023, the fantasy experts at FanGraphs ranked him as the second-best catcher for fantasy. However, he had a bit of a drop-off from his stellar 2022 performance with a .252/.310/.452 slash line, but he still put up decent counting stats with 20 home runs, 63 RBI, 70 runs scored, and topped all catchers with 16 stolen bases.
Defensively, he also gave up the highest base-stealing rate of his career at 78 percent with runners stealing a total of 81 bases on 104 attempts, not that these stats affect his fantasy value. But acknowledging that some regression in his overall abilities may be coming sooner rather than later as he enters his age-32 season is a good heads-up that a nearing decline on the field will ultimately affect his production and fantasy value in the end.
For 2024, FanGraphs' fantasy auction calculator (using Steamer projections and standard 5 x 5 roto settings) ranks Realmuto as the 10th most valuable catcher on the board, even though he's still going as one of the top backstops in early drafts.
For dynasty fantasy players, Baseball America's warning and his sudden fall from grace, even in redraft leagues, should make those holding Realmuto on their roster a little worried for the near future.
It's not as much of a problem for his actual team. If the forecast is indeed correct, then the Phillies better make the most of Realmuto right now while he is still putting up high-end numbers to make a serious and successful run for the championship before it becomes too late.