Phillies 2024 Season Preview: C Rafael Marchán

The Phillies third-string catcher might get a shot at the big leagues again this season, if he can stay ready and healthy.
Philadelphia Phillies catcher Rafael Marchan
Philadelphia Phillies catcher Rafael Marchan / G Fiume/GettyImages

Up next in our Philadelphia Phillies 2024 Season Preview series is catcher Rafael Marchán.

Previous season previews: José AlvaradoAndrew BellattiAlec BohmConnor BrogdonNick CastellanosRodolfo CastroKody ClemensJake Cave, Dylan Covey, Seranthony Domínguez, Kolby Allard, Bryce Harper, Jeff Hoffman, Orion Kerkering

We'll examine Marchán's 2023 season and then evaluate projections for the 2024 season using the Steamer and ZiPS projection systems, which can be found on FanGraphs.

Rafael Marchán 2023 stats and 2024 projections

2023 Stats (A,A+,AAA): 55 G, 224 PA, 2 HR, 35 RBI, 1 SB, 26 BB, .305/.397/.442, .839 OPS, 117 wRC+

2024 Steamer: 8 G, 31 PA, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 0 SB, 3 BB, .236/.312/.348, .659 OPS, 0.1 fWAR

2024 ZiPS DC: 8 G, 32 PA, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 0 SB, 2 BB, .243/.310/.328, .638 OPS, 0.1 fWAR

Rafael Marchán 2024 season preview

Rafael Marchán has been with the Phillies since signing as an international free agent in July 2015. Outside of a cup of coffee with the big club split between 2020 and 2021, the backstop out of Venezuela hasn't had much of a chance to make an impact in the majors. Thanks to beginning the last two seasons on the IL, Marchán has spent all his time getting up to speed in Triple-A Lehigh Valley.

The 24-year-old didn't have much of a problem with the IronPigs last season — in 207 plate appearances, he slashed .297/.391/.440 with a pair of home runs and 30 RBI.

And his .267/.323/.417 slash line in 65 major league plate appearances indicates he can hold his own in The Show, at least from what we can glean from the small sample size.

Marchán spent his winter months ripping up the pitching in the Venezuelan Winter League (LVBP) before a back injury ended his season early. In 32 games before the injury, the youngster hit .333 with a .982 OPS, the 13th-highest mark in the league, with three home runs, 10 doubles, a pair of triples, 23 RBI, and 16 walks to 11 strikeouts.

Marchán's 2024 projections look about right for a third-string catcher

Unfortunately for Marchán, he has a tough gig, sitting third in the pecking order behind star catcher J.T. Realmuto and backup Garrett Stubbs. With Stubbs just lucky to get his roughly 120 plate appearances per season with the Phillies, it's hard to imagine Marchán getting a look, barring an injury.

While Marchán could impress at spring training and make manager Rob Thomson think twice about his backup catcher, it would have to be something really special, and the odds are long. The switch-hitter should expect to see a full season in Triple-A this year but has a chance to sneak into some games with the Phillies. At least, that's what all the projection systems think.

Steamer and ZiPS DC project Marchán for eight big league games with around 30 plate appearances. The models give him roughly the same (.231) batting average as his 20-game stint in 2021, Steamer at .236 and ZiPS at .243. Both systems predict a below-league-average OPS, .659 for Steamer and .638 for ZiPS, if he gets another shot at major league pitchers this year.

Marchán's batted ball profile gives hope for major league success

Marchán's batted ball profile in the minors last season bodes well for success in the majors if he can carry it over when he gets his next shot. He spread his batted balls out fairly evenly with a 34.6 ground ball rate, a 27.6 percent line drive rate, and a 37.8 percent fly ball rate.

Aside from the low ground ball rate, his 27.6 percent line drive rate jumps out — the MLB average last season was 20 percent, according to FanGraphs. A high line drive rate could be the key to success for a hitter without big home run power, and it explains his .321 BABIP.

While immediate success with the bat would be nice, in reality, the Phillies will probably be more concerned about his ability to manage the staff behind the plate if he's pressed into service for a short time. Expect Marchán to get the call this season if something befalls one of the Phillies' catchers — assuming he's healthy.