J.T. Realmuto has been awesome and we haven't even seen the best of him yet


We didn't see it play out on Monday because Joe Maddon gave Willson Contreras a rare night off, but the two best catchers in baseball currently are in this Phillies-Cubs series.

Contreras is off to an MVP-caliber start, hitting .321/.426/.627 with 11 home runs and 29 RBI through 162 plate appearances. He has already exceeded last year's home run total, and he's reaching base at one of the best clips in baseball.

Behind the plate, Contreras has nabbed 8 of 18 base stealers, a 44 percent success rate that is well above the MLB average of 28 percent.

Then there's J.T. Realmuto, who has been the key figure in Phillies wins two games in a row. On Sunday, he hit a two-run home run as a pinch-hitter to tie the game against the Rockies three batters before Bryce Harper's longball put the Phils ahead for good.

And then on Monday night at Wrigley Field, Realmuto drove in a run with a sharp single up the middle before hitting the game-winning home run in extra innings.

Realmuto is hitting .277/.333/.453 this season with 10 doubles, six homers and 29 RBI in 177 plate appearances. He has started 39 of the Phillies' 47 games, a pace that would result in 134 starts, nine more than his career high.

Last week, I noted here that Realmuto had provided the Phillies with everything except home-run power. He had hit for average, been money with runners in scoring position (.311), ran the bases better than any catcher, thrown out more base-stealers than any catcher, blocked well and been a calming, beneficial presence for Phils pitchers.

Then, after a three-week stretch without a homer, Realmuto went deep two games in a row. He has nine extra-base hits in his last 70 at-bats.

Gabe Kapler mentioned last week, before the two home runs, that he could sense Realmuto was on the brink of breaking out in a powerful way based on his hard contact. Realmuto was squaring the ball up, going up the middle regularly, hitting low line drives that could have been extra-base hits with a higher trajectory. Now, we're seeing that prediction play out.

Realmuto is not the type of hitter who tries to hit home runs. He just tries to make solid contact and when he squares it up with a bat path conducive to a home run, the ball can fly out. It's similar to the way Jean Segura hits his home runs.

Realmuto has a hard contact rate of 44 percent, well above the league average of 37 percent. It is also by far his best-ever hard contact rate, well ahead of his career rate of 33 percent.

The Phillies are getting what they paid for via trade. They're probably getting more than they paid for. This offense wouldn't be nearly as diverse without Realmuto's run-producing capabilities in the five-hole or his solid contact skills in high-leverage situations.

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