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2021 report card: Rafael Marchan

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Do we finally have a new backup catcher?

Philadelphia Phillies v Washington Nationals Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images

Catching is hard.

Being a catching prospect is really hard.

Being a catching prospect near major league ready on a team that has invested a lot of money into the current catcher is really, really hard.

Rafael Marchan is in a tough position, but an expected change to the rules for this coming season could help him get onto the field more.

2021 stats

.231/.286/.346, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 10:4 K:BB, 70 wRC+, 0.0 fWAR

The good

Marchan continues to show that he has the defensive chops to handle the major league pitching, especially those that the Phillies have. While the advanced metrics do have him a bit below average in framing (-1.3 framing runs at BP) and blocking, expecting him to make the jump from the minors and automatically be above average is asking a lot. He acquitted himself well and showed that he can be trusted with the likes of Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola.

The bad

The bat is still pretty anemic. Even though he hit another home run this year, his offensive game is still very much centered on a contact heavy approach, hoping to drive a ball into the gap as his way of giving the team some production. While power will never be his calling card, he’s going to have to get that hit tool up and running in order to be a productive major leaguer beyond a second level starter.

The future

Marchan’s future is interesting. With the team having recently cut ties with Andrew Knapp, the backup catcher’s spot is open for Marchan. The glove, as we mentioned, appears big league ready right now, but the bat is still lagging. Would the team rather he provide that defense in the big league once or twice a week, or would they rather he continue getting regular time in the minors to continue developing his offensive game?

If the new CBA, whenever it gets done, contains the DH for the National League, does the team carry him in the majors and give Realmuto more rest at that spot and at first? It would give the team a solid defensive backup in that case, so maybe they are hoping for that scenario. At the same time, though, Realmuto was paid quite a bit of money to be a catcher and moving his bat to a different spot doesn’t exactly make the lineup stronger. The team is at its best when Realmuto is behind the plate as he is still one of, if not the best, defensive catchers in the game.

There’s also the question of using Marchan as a trade chip. A light hitting, glove first catching prospect doesn’t exactly scream “trade headliner”, but with scouting reports somewhat positive that he’ll eventually hit, perhaps Marchan could be a part of a package that is headlined by someone else to get a big major league piece the team might need, be it on the mound or in the lineup.

Final grade: C

The bat needs work, the defense is getting there, but he still wasn’t great. Splitting the difference and calling him average feels right.