Much to like about Phillies' top catching prospect, but he still needs time


As baseball's offseason takes shape, we will take a look at each player on the Phillies 2020 roster and where they fit in the future. We'll go through the roster by uniform number, lowest to highest for position players, highest to lowest for pitchers, and alternate daily.

Today: Catcher Rafael Marchan

Career rundown

As a youngster, Marchan was a shortstop, just like his idol and fellow Venezuelan Omar Vizquel. He began working out for teams as a catcher in 2015 and quickly took to the position. He impressed Phillies officials with his defense and behind-the-plate smarts in the low minors and caught manager Joe Girardi's eye in spring training 2020. When J.T. Realmuto went down with a hip injury in mid-September, Marchan was called up to be the team's second catcher even though he'd never played an inning above Single A. 

How he became a Phillie

Phillies scouts watched Marchan as a teenage shortstop and worked him out as a catcher. The conversion was made and Marchan signed for $200,000 when he was just 16.

2020 season

A compact, 5-9 switch-hitter, Marchan reported to minor-league camp with a .285 batting average and zero home runs in 765 minor-league at-bats. He made a couple of day trips to big-league camp and impressed Girardi with his defense and presence behind the plate. Marchan essentially became the Phillies' third catcher and was assigned to the alternate training site. 

Though offense is not Marchan's strength, he stroked a base hit in his first big-league at-bat and swatted his first professional homer in his fifth at-bat. He finished with four hits in eight at-bats and received a taste of major-league life that should benefit his development.


What lies ahead

Marchan's promotion to the majors at just 21 years old confirmed that he's the Phillies' top catching prospect. But he's just that — a prospect. He's not a candidate to replace Realmuto should the All-Star catcher depart this winter.   The uniqueness of the pandemic-shortened, 60-game season hastened Marchan's ascension to the majors in 2020. He'd benefit developmentally from a full season, maybe even two, of Double A or Triple A ball. After that, the Phillies should know if they have a No. 1 catcher or a backup on their hands. Either way, Marchan's defense should get him back to the majors in some role.

Girardi, who'll be in Philadelphia for a while, remains a huge fan.

"The kid does a lot of things right," Girardi said. "He doesn't have to show power. He just has to hit, be an adequate hitter, or he could become a really good hitter. Take his walks, handle the bat. Defensively, he's going to save you runs by catching. Those are RBIs for me. He's going to save you a lot of runs catching."

Girardi mentioned Marchan in the same breath as another converted infielder we all know.

"I'm not comparing here, but Carlos Ruiz was not a great hitter when he first came up," Girardi said. "He's got talent and you hope he figures out the bat part of it because if he does, you have something really special."

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