FSL notes: Realmuto makes progress

Marlins prospect honing skills behind the plate with Jupiter

By Guy Curtright / Special to MLB.com | August 1, 2012 7:21 AM ET

J.T. Realmuto was all set to go to Oklahoma State University and play shortstop for the Cowboys. "I didn't think anything would make me change my mind," he said.

Then the Marlins picked just the right day to check out the high school record-holder for RBIs in a season.

"I only caught four games as a senior," Realmuto said. "I only did it when our catcher had to pitch. But one of those times was when the Marlins came to see me. They talked to me afterward and said they really liked what I did."

In fact, the Marlins liked the accidental catcher so much that they made him a third-round pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft. Now Realmuto had a difficult decision to make.

"I waited right until the deadline, but I decided to sign," said the right-handed hitter, who received a bonus of $600,000. "I knew that playing baseball was what I wanted to do, and I thought I'd better get started if I was going to be changing positions."

The 21-year-old Jupiter Hammerheads catcher remains a work in progress, but the potential is there for all to see. He had an impressive first full season in the Class A South Atlantic League a year ago and moved up to the Class A Advanced Florida State League this season, where he is ranked as Miami's No. 7 prospect.

The Marlins liked Realmuto as a catcher because of his strong arm and soft hands. A former high school quarterback, he also has the leadership qualities you like behind the plate.

Still, an occasional high school catcher doesn't become a full-time professional one overnight.

"It isn't an easy transition," Realmuto said. "But I've been putting in a lot of extra work and I'm definitely making progress."

Realmuto, who was picked for the Florida State League All-Star Game, had 14 errors and eight passed balls while throwing out 30 runners on 91 steal attempts.

"I went threw a little throwing slump," said Realmuto, who nabbed 42 percent of would-be base stealers last season with Greensboro.

Realmuto was an offensive force at Carl Albert High School in Midwest City, Okla. He hit .595 with 28 homers as a senior and set a national record with his 119 RBIs.

In the Minors, Realmuto's numbers have been much more modest. He hit .287 with 12 homers in the South Atlantic League a year ago and was batting .249 with eight homers, 41 RBIs and 12 stolen bases through 94 games with Jupiter.

"I've been disappointed with the way I've been hitting," said Realmuto, who had a .312 on-base percentage thanks in part to 29 walks compared to 48 strikeouts.

Realmuto closed strong last season and is hoping to do the same this year. He broke up a perfect game by Clearwater's Adam Morgan with an eighth-inning single Sunday and had two hits, including a double, on Monday at Brevard County.

There is an opening behind the plate in Miami, and the Marlins have been trying to fill it. Rob Brantly was acquired from Detroit in the deal that sent Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante to the Tigers, and he is at Triple-A New Orleans. Kyle Skipworth, a first-round pick in 2008, is with Double-A Jacksonville.

Realmuto's upside may be greater than either, though. It just might take him a little while to realize it.

"I can't be impatient," he said. "I know you don't become a Major League catcher overnight."

In brief

Impressive debut: Michael Wacha, taken with the 19th overall pick in the 2012 Draft by St. Louis, pitched two perfect innings and struck out five in his first outing for Palm Beach on Monday against Dunedin. The 6-foot-6 right-hander from Texas A&M had previously made three relief appearances in the Gulf Coast League, posting a 1.80 ERA and striking out seven without a walk in five innings. With Palm Beach, Wacha joined former Florida State outfielder James Ramsey, who was taken four spots behind him by the Cardinals. Ramsey was hitting .279 in 26 games.

Finally a winner again: Daytona's Robert Whitenack got his first victory in his comeback from Tommy John surgery when he pitched five scoreless innings against Bradenton on Friday. The right-hander, who had lost his first five decisions, allowed two hits, walked three and struck out four. Whitenack was 7-0 last season before hurting his elbow, going 3-0 for Daytona and then 4-0 with Double-A Tennessee. He is the Chicago Cubs' No. 6 prospect.

Nolin back on mound: Dunedin's Sean Nolin returned to action after spending seven weeks on the disabled list and improved to 8-0 with a victory in relief against Charlotte on Sunday. The left-hander didn't allow a hit in 2 2/3 innings, walking one and striking out two. Nolin's first relief outing of the season lowered his ERA to 2.27, and he was tied for third in victories in the league despite all his time missed.

Whiff, whiff, whiff: Clearwater left-handers hold down the top three spots on the league's strikeout leader board. Adam Morgan, who had fanned 53 over 40 1/3 innings in his past six starts, leads with 133 strikeouts in 118 innings. Jesse Biddle and Austin Wright each have 107 strikeouts, with Biddle having worked 104 1/3 innings and Wright pitching 115 2/3. Wright (9-4) is second in the league in victories.

Guy Curtright is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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