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MLB Rookie Profile: Jorge Alfaro, C, Philadelphia Phillies

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Phillies rookie catcher is a bundle of strengths and weaknesses

MLB: Miami Marlins at Philadelphia Phillies Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday we looked at St. Louis Cardinals rookie Carson Kelly, who is one of the top catching prospects in baseball although he’s not getting much of a chance to show it right now. In contrast, Philadelphia Phillies rookie catcher Jorge Alfaro is getting an opportunity to demonstrate what he can do as the season draws to a close.

Alfaro has been on the radar for quite a while. Signed by the Texas Rangers out of Colombia in 2010, he came over to Philadelphia as a key component in the 2015 Cole Hamels trade. Alfaro has excited scouts for years with his combination of raw power and strong defensive tools.

He also frustrated scouts with erratic skills. At time he has looked like an All-Star, but he’s also gone through long phases of inadequacy. Over time he has improved considerably but there are still some questions here, particularly on offense.

Alfaro ranked third in the system on the pre-season 2017 Philadelphia Phillies Top 20 prospects list with this commentary:

3) Jorge Alfaro, C, Grade B/B+: Age 23, acquired from Rangers in 2015 Cole Hamels trade hit .285/.325/.458 with 15 homer, 22 walks, 105 strikeouts in 404 at-bats in Double-A; 60-grade power, could hit 20 homers a year with maturity; remains a very aggressive hitter with low walk rate and questions about batting average/OBP at highest level; still doesn’t get to his power as often as he should; dramatic development on defense in ’16; has always had the tools including a 70-grade arm but throwing accuracy, polish, receiving skills, and effort behind the plate were lacking for most of his career; all that changed in ’16, with 44% of runners caught and large improvements in reliability, awareness, and intangibles; needs Triple-A time to refine the bat but if glove progress holds he will be a long-term regular. ETA late 2017.

As projected he spent most of 2017 with Triple-A Lehigh Valley, hitting .241/.291/.358 with seven homers, 16 walks, and 113 strikeouts in 324 at-bats. That’s pretty bad, as he was persistently undone by his hyper-aggressive hitting approach.

The Phillies called him up anyway and he got off to an excellent start, hitting .356/.383/.467 in 12 games in August, albeit with a poor 2/14 BB/K ratio in 47 plate appearances. Then word got around that Alfaro will chase anything and September has been much different. He’s hit .229 in his last 10 games with zero walks and 12 strikeouts in 35 at-bats.

That said, he has still shown isolated power with three homers over that stretch, but his poor batting average and OBP are a drag on the offense when he’s in an aggressive mode. This is all very much in keeping with the pattern of his career.

Alfaro has enough sock to be quite dangerous and indeed he’s still hitting .295/.340/.455 overall in the majors this year, but a BB/K ratio of 2/29 in 88 at-bats is a big caution flag. He’ll produce power, but expect bumps in the road when it comes to OBP and batting average.

The good news is that Alfaro has maintained the defensive progress he made in 2016, making it much easier for the Phillies to be patient with him while he works out the kinks with his hitting. He’s still only 24 years old, so while he has been on prospect lists for years, he still has development time on the clock.