For players grinding in the Philadelphia Phillies' minor league system, opportunities at the catcher position at the Major League level currently are almost slim to none. The Phillies already have three-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove winner J.T. Realmuto firmly entrenched in the role, along with fan favorite Garrett Stubbs as the primary backup.
But apparently, the Phillies have a hopeful who is making a strong case to return to the majors for the coming 2024 season with his dominant play in the Venezuelan Professional Baseball League (LVBP).
Phillies minor league catcher Rafael Marchán, 24, has been absolutely crushing it with the Tigres de Aragua in the LVBP. In 22 games, he has posted an impressive .373 batting average, the second-best in the league among qualified batters, and a league-leading 1.084 OPS. He has 14 runs scored, seven doubles, two triples, two home runs, 17 RBI, and three stolen bases while maintaining a 1:1 walk-to-strikeout ratio.
Marchán was signed by the Phillies as an international free agent back in 2015. Originally an infielder, with shortstop as his primary position, he was ultimately converted into a catcher within the Phillies organization.
For those who may have forgotten, Marchán has actually played for the Phillies at the Major League level for parts of two seasons, dating back to 2020 and 2021. In 23 games of action, he batted a respectable .267 with 10 runs scored, one double, one triple, two home runs, seven RBI, five walks and 12 strikeouts. He has been known for his excellent defensive abilities as well.
Marchán appeared on track to be Realmuto’s potential backup, or even challenge, for the starting role if Realmuto didn’t re-sign with the ballclub during the 2020-2021 offseason. However, after suffering ill-timed injuries during Spring Training in consecutive seasons, he never got his chance to shine. At the same time, Stubbs came into the picture and gradually took over as the ballclub’s backup catcher.
With the same backstop duo set to begin the 2024 MLB season, once again there doesn’t seem to be a spot for Marchán at the big league level. As the team’s unofficial third-string catcher, he'll certainly be the first one to get the call when needed.
At the same time, with his stellar showing in Winter Ball, he could potentially even land elsewhere for the upcoming season if the Phillies don’t see him as part of their plans in the near future. Nevertheless, it’s always good to have an abundance of riches to work with, especially for one of the most important positions in the game.