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Defense-first Marrero making noise with bat

July 26, 2014 - Mitch Rupert
There's no question why Emmanuel Marrero was a top-10 round draft pick in June. He's a defense first baseball player.

It's not an idea which is lost on the Williamsport Crosscutters' shortstop. He's well aware that it's going to be the piece of leather on his left hand which is likely going to help him most travel through the system.

And for good reason. He's as smooth a shortstop as has come through Williamsport in recent years. He has a strong, accurate arm which can make throws from anywhere a shortstop may have to range.

But for a player who is supposed to be all glove, no bat, Marrero has been a key contributor to Williamsport's offense. Entering Saturday's series finale against Mahoning Valley, the switch-hitter was one of just six players on the roster sporting a .275 or higher batting average.

“I feel very good and comfortable,” Marrero said Friday following batting practice at Bowman Field. “Now matter where I'm hitting, first or ninth, I feel comfortable when they call my name.”

As primarily the ninth hitter in the batting order, Marrero was hitting so well early in the year that he got a couple chances to bat leadoff when Cord Sandberg took some days off. And if not for an 0 for 9 performance in those two appearances as a leadoff hitter, Marrero would be one of just two players on the team sporting a .300 batting average.

Marrero has been a sparkplug at the bottom of the order. A native of Puerto Rico, Marrero is coming off a season at Alabama State where he was the Southwestern Athletic Conference Player of the Year. In large part, the honor was bestowed upon him because he .329 in 57 games for the Hornets.

He's always been a valuable defensive player. He was Alabama State's starting shortstop from his first game in Montgomery. He showed gradual improvement, though, as an offensive player during his three years there.

He hit just .185 in 56 games as a true freshman for the Hornets. He followed it up with a .285 average as a sophomore before becoming the conference's player of the year this spring. He was drafted in the seventh round by the Philadelphia Phillies, the highest round an Alabama State player has ever been selected in.

“My first year was so bad,” Marrero said. “I felt pressure my first year because I was 18 and I didn't have too much experience. The second year I didn't play my first 20 games and I got mad at my coaches. But I felt more comfortable when the coach put me in there and said just play your game and play hard.”

Marrero is never going to do much to wow you offensively. Twenty-one of his 28 hits this year are singles, as is to be expected from a player who has a higher on-base percentage than a slugging percentage.

While he's probably not ever going to be a player with immense pop in his bat, he has a knack for getting the barrel on the baseball and being able to flip it over the infield for basehit. He did hit four home runs as a junior this year at Alabama State, so he does have some occasional pop in the bat.

“My game is not to be a 20 home run guy,” Marrero said. “My game is to put the ball in play and move runners and play defense.”

But the playing defense part is the most important to Marrero. It's going to be his calling card as he climbs through the system. He's as adept throwing on the run, whether ranging to the hole or up the middle, as he is at setting his feet and firing to first on a routine grounder.

When he was drafted, Baseball America said, “Marrero has quick hands and feet, smooth actions and plenty of arm strength, and makes both the difficult and routine plays.” He's shown all those attributes as a player manager Shawn Williams has come to rely on almost every day.

“I think my defense will carry me more,” Marrero said. “It's hard to be a true shortstop who hits so well and is very good at defense, too. But I need my defense to be great. It's more defensive for me.”


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