Rafael Marchan Shows Promise Behind The Plate

Combined, Pat Borders and Ernie Whitt played 30 seasons and more than 2,200 games behind the plate in the major leagues. So they know a thing or two about catching.

Both are high on 20-year-old Venezuelan Rafael Marchan.

“He throws the ball extremely well, physically he’s good, he swings the bat well from both sides of the plate, he blocks well,” said Borders, who managed Marchan at Williamsport in the short-season New York-Penn League last year. “But the thing that jumps out at me is how well he calls a game, how studious he is, how well he understands pitch sequencing, how he’s able to read batters and how quickly he applies it all in a game. He’s ahead of the curve for his age.”

“He does everything right,” added Whitt, the Phillies’ minor league catching coordinator. “He’s engaged on every pitch. You don’t always see that from a kid so young.”

Back home in Caracas, Marchan had made his name as a shortstop. But scouts thought his body type would eventually be more suited to catching. At an U-15 tournament in Mexico shortly before the July 2 international signing date in 2015, Marchan worked out behind the plate and found the actions to be very natural. Several teams liked what they saw, and the Phillies eventually signed him for $200,000.

The Phillies, of course, have had success converting former infielders into major league catchers in the past. Carlos Ruiz was a second baseman in Panama. The Phillies signed him for $8,000 in 1998 only after he agreed to give catching a shot.

Marchan grew up idolizing Omar Vizquel, but he is well aware of Ruiz’s story and hopes to duplicate it. Generously listed at 5-foot-9 and 199 pounds, Marchan has yet to show power, but his bat-to-ball skills are excellent. He doesn’t walk a lot, but he also does not strike out a lot, either.

Honored with the Larry Rojas Award at the end of minor league camp for his performance and work ethic this spring, Marchan hit .301 as a 19-year-old at Williamsport last summer and will be tested over a full season at low Class A Lakewood this season, where he could split time with fellow Phillies catching prospect Abrahan Gutierrez.

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