Injured Phillies catcher finally playing again goes yard

Rafael Marchán is finally off the IL and off to a hot start on his rehab assignment.
Philadelphia Phillies Photo Day
Philadelphia Phillies Photo Day / Kevin C. Cox/GettyImages

It's been a frustrating couple of years for former Philadelphia Phillies catching prospect Rafael Marchán. After debuting at 21 with a brief three-day cup of coffee with the big club in 2020, injuries and positional roadblocks have largely caused Marchán to become an afterthought as a new generation of top prospects has started to garner more attention in the Phillies farm system.

Injured Phillies catcher finally playing again goes yard

Recently returned to catching duties, Marchán missed all of spring training with lower back pain. The injury was deemed serious enough that the Phillies placed him on the 10-day IL on March 28. Currently on a rehab assignment at Low-A Clearwater, it's a great sign that the former No. 5 prospect is back on the field and having early success during his game action of 2024.

In four games and 15 plate appearances with the Threshers, Marchán is hitting .273 with a 1.012 OPS, three hits, one home run, three RBI, three walks, and one stolen base. Marchán's home run in Friday night's contest was a moonshot hit to right field that broke a 2-2 tie in the third inning against the Cincinnati Reds Singe-A affiliate Daytona ballclub.

Rafael Marchán has much to prove this season

Still only 25, it may come as a surprise that it's been almost four years since Marchán last appeared in a game in a Phillies uniform. A minor knee injury that caused starting catcher J.T. Realmuto to sit out a few games last week was a recent reminder of how important it is to have major league-ready catching depth available at the top levels of the minor league system. Luckily Realmuto is back in action without requiring an IL stint, and backup catcher Garrett Stubbs did a passable job in his absence.

What would the Phillies have done if Realmuto required an IL stint? While Stubbs does a decent job behind the plate in limited action, it's not a secret that playing Stubbs every day would cause a major drop in production to a potent Phillies lineup. While Stubbs carries intangibles like clubhouse leadership, his .103 batting average and 12 strikeouts in 39 at-bats leaves a lot to be desired. This isn't a hitter you want to see playing every day on a ballclub with championship ambitions.

So that begs the question. Is there a clear path for Marchán to return to a role with the Phillies in the event of an injury to Realmuto?

Marchán is too old to be considered a prospect at this point, but his performance in 2024 will have to be solid if he wants to enter the discussion to back up Realmuto at the MLB level at some point in the future. While never a player showing a lot of power, Marchán's bat has mostly been above average in his 407 minor league career games with a .265 batting average, seven home runs, and 165 RBI in 1,453 at-bats.

With Garrett Stubbs holding down the backup catching spot, it would likely take a significant injury to force the Phillies to recall Marchán to the big league club this year. It's possible a change of scenery would benefit all involved, and it wouldn't be a surprise if the Phillies included him in a deal at some point in the future.