19-year-old Marchan one of the Cutters’ most complete players

CARA MORNINGSTAR/Sun-Gazette Rafael Marchan, 13 of the Crosscutters, runs to first base as Sean Reynolds, 25 of the Muckdogs, plays first base during the Batavia Muckdogs versus the Williamsport Crosscutters baseball game at Bowman Field on Sunday.

Maybe the biggest compliment Christian Marrero could give Rafael Marchan is he wasn’t entirely sure which was Marchan’s natural side of the plate. He stood outside the Williamsport Crosscutters’ dugout Friday afternoon and thought about it for a second.

“I’m going to say his right, but you can’t tell,” the Cutters’ hitting coach said.

The numbers don’t make any differentiation between natural and unnatural side either. Marchan entered Sunday’s game with Batavia hitting .297 left-handed and .325 right-handed. There’s a reason the 19-year-old catcher will play in today’s New York-Penn League All-Star game in State College, and much of it is largely what Marchan has done with a bat in his hands.

But make no mistake, he’s not just a one-way player. He may be one of the most complete players on the entire Crosscutters roster despite being one of its youngest players.

“He’s been one of the guys we count on,” Marrero said. “To come in here and take over this team, he’s done that all year.”

The coaching staff has heaped an amazing amount of responsibility on the teenager’s shoulders all summer. Never once has he flinched. Cutters manager Pat Borders has routinely praised Marchan’s ability to handle a pitching staff and call a game.

On top of that, he’s honed not just one, but two swings which have made him the lone active player on the Cutters’ roster with a batting average over .300. It’s made him the most consistent hitter on the roster and maybe one of the top overall prospects to put on a Cutters uniform this season.

“It’s the same job for him day in and day out,” Marrero said. “His approach for me has improved throughout the whole year from the left side and the right side. He’s going to hit for years to come.”

What makes Marchan such a good hitter is his ability to get the barrel of the bat on any pitch whether it’s in the strikezone or not. He also has a great understanding of his own strikezone. It’s how he’s managed to strike out in only 7.6 percent of his plate appearances this year.

When he puts the ball in play, more often than not he hits it hard. He’s upped his line drive percentage by six percent over the last two years, including a career-high 25.4 percent this season with Williamsport.

Marrero says much of that comes from an improved approach at the plate. Each time he walks to the batter’s box, whether it’s the left side or the right side, he’s got a plan of what he wants to accomplish.

“I think if you have a good approach, everything else will come along,” Marrero said. “But for me, he’s been consistent day in and day out. There’s not much I have to do with him, just make sure he’s doing his routine to get ready for the game.”

Marchan’s routine can be quite active. There are bullpen sessions which need to be caught. There’s time in the batting cage doing individual work before batting practice on the field begins. There’s a round of infield/outfield practice where he splits reps with the Cutters’ two other catchers Jesse Wilkening and Lenin Rodriguez.

All of this comes whether he’s catching that night or not and whether he caught the night before or not. And despite all the time at the field and the work which needs to be done with pitching coach Hector Berrios to prepare a gameplan for that night’s opposing lineup, Marchan plays each day with endless energy.

Despite all the work he puts in, he never asks for a day off. Recently, though, he’s spent fewer days behind the plate and more as the team’s designated hitter as the season reaches its final three weeks.

“He wants to be in the lineup every day,” Marrero said. “This is his job for the rest of his life. His defense and offense has to be on, and he’s really done well for us. He comes in with a great attitude and he’s ready to work.”