The Philadelphia Phillies have reportedly promoted catching prospect Jorge Alfaro to the big league roster. Acquired in the Cole Hamels deal in 2015, Alfaro has been considered to be one of the top backstop prospects in the minors by many experts. Let's take a look.
First, basics from the 2016 Baseball Prospect Book:
Jorge Alfaro, C, Philadelphia Phillies
Bats: R Throws: R HT; 6-2 WT: 185 DOB: June 11, 1993
2011: Grade C; 2012: Grade C+; 2013: Grade B-; 2014: Grade B; 2015: Grade B
Jorge Alfaro is rather frustrating. The tools remain outstanding: power, throwing arm, mobility, he has the tools to be an All-Star catcher. However, he is still getting by on pure talent without much refinement. His strike zone judgment continues to hold his hitting back to less than what it otherwise could be. More disturbingly, despite all the praise for his defensive tools, he’s simply not a very good catcher in many ways.
The 2016 comment:
Every bit of that remains true. Two major changes: he missed much of the season with an ankle injury, and he was traded to the Phillies in the Cole Hamels deal. This will be a test of the "change of scenery" theory. He still has exciting power and he still has a horrible approach at the plate. His defense is just as annoying: he looks good back there physically, but he still makes too many bonehead mistakes or poor receiving plays. He threw out 28% of runners, just like he did in 2014, a disappointing total given his arm strength. All told, Alfaro’s skills as a baseball player are stagnant. He is still young enough to turn that around and develop into a regular, but the bust risk has increased. Grade B-.
Alfaro has stayed healthy this year and has produced a .279/.321/.442 slash line with Double-A Reading, contributing 13 homers with 21 walks against 95 strikeouts in 373 at-bats. This is very much line with past performance: he's got considerable power but isn't likely to be much of an OBP threat against better pitching without more refinement. There's still a lot of swing-and-miss in his game.
The good news for Alfaro is on defense: he's improved tremendously with the glove, throwing out 44% of runners this year and posting dramatically lower passed ball and error rates compared to a couple of years ago. He's cut way down on mental mistakes and has added the necessary polish to make the physical tools blossom behind the plate. He is much less frustrating to watch now: the tools work rather than just tantalize.
At age 23 it seems likely that this progress is genuine. There are still some questions about the bat, at least where OBP and batting average are concerned, but a strong defensive catcher with power can have a very long career. Move him back up to a Grade B.