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► Reports and Scouting:
Role: First Division Regular
Risk: Medium – Alfaro’s defensive improvements will allow him to stick at catcher going forward. The offensive requirements of catching mean that he does not need to make drastic improvements at the plate
Summary: Jorge Alfaro was always the wildcard in the Cole Hamels trade. Alfaro missed most of the 2015 season due to injury, and while he had always been praised for his raw tools, they hadn’t manifested in on field results while with Texas. The case against Alfaro was simple — his bat only works at catcher, but he may not be a catcher. In 2016, Alfaro proved he is a catcher, making enough improvements to end the speculation about his future position. Alfaro’s improvements were not limited to behind the plate, as his bat also took important steps forward in 2016. He is still too aggressive, and his plate discipline leads to a lot of strikeouts and few walks. He did improve his walk rate some as the season went on. He walked only twice in the first two months of the season (29 games), but then he walked 21 times in his remaining 76 games. He has quieted his swing and worked on driving the ball up the middle and to the opposite field. Despite playing in the Reading homerpalooza, his home run numbers remained uninflated. However, he hit home runs to all fields in 2016, including some majestic opposite field shots.
Alfaro is a great athlete and an average runner. He will steal some bases, and his speed also puts some pressure on defenses that are used to slugs behind the plate. On defense, Alfaro has become a competent receiver. He can still struggle to block pitches, but he is not a liability. His arm strength is special, but his transfer can still be a bit slow, leaving him more plus than elite at controlling the running game. He is still aggressive behind the plate and will backpick runners off first. Alfaro still needs time, and it might be a few frustrating years in the majors before he really puts it all together. His complete package of skills could make him one of the best catchers in the game, but that is getting ahead of things for now.
2017 Outlook: With Andrew Knapp likely to get the major league backup job, Alfaro should be the everyday catcher in AAA. He might not see a call up until September, as the Phillies try to get his offense polished before they have to have him in the majors.
Role: First Division Regular
Risk: High – Despite spending 2015 in AA, there are many questions still surrounding Alfaro’s future. The first is that he is not a sure thing to stay behind the plate, despite his strong arm and athleticism, and may need to eventually move to an outfield corner. The second is his bat, where an overly aggressive approach give him a poor hit tool and prevents his huge raw power from playing in games.
Summary: Ever since Alfaro signed with the Rangers, his potential has intrigued everyone. He has a weird profile for a catcher, because he is an amazing athlete, which makes it easier to project superstar potential onto him. The 2015 season was his 6th minor league season, and yet he still has not been able to actualize his tools at the plate and in the field. The rumor was that the Phillies under Ruben Amaro had wanted a catcher to come back in a Hamels deal, and Alfaro filled that need as the 3rd best prospect in the deal. Alfaro played a couple of games in the GCL for the Phillies, after missing most of the season to an ankle injury suffered while he was in the Rangers’ organization. At the plate, Alfaro has elite level raw power, but it has been limited mostly to batting practice, because his approach issues have limited his contact, which has been poor throughout his career (though Kiley McDaniel said after the trade that some scouts thought Alfaro looked better in games this spring). Otherwise, Alfaro has good bat speed and could get to an average hit tool if he can fix his approach, but more realistically, he is going to end up somewhere below that. His approach is not Alfaro’s only problem; there is plenty going wrong behind the plate. Alfaro is athletic enough to stick behind the plate, but he struggles in receiving and blocking. He has made strides, but he remains rough in his actions and instincts. Alfaro’s arm strength is among the best in the minors, but slow transfers and reactions have limited its usefulness. He has started to make it work, but it remains inconsistent. Unlike most catchers, Alfaro has at least average speed, though he has slowed his stolen base totals in recent years. This speed does make Alfaro a right field candidate if catching does not work out for him. He can also play first base if needed. Alfaro has a huge variety of outcomes. If he can stay behind the plate, there is not a lot of pressure on his bat to perform. In right field he would need to hit and get to his power in order to be a major league regular. His ultimate upside is at catcher, with an arm that shuts down the running game and a bat that can hit 25-30 home runs, which would be a perennial All-Star. On the other end of the spectrum, if his approach never improves he will be a AAAA OF/1B who can only hit mistakes. Luckily the Phillies have plenty of time to let him develop.
2016 Outlook: With Andrew Knapp likely going to AAA and given Alfaro’s struggles in AA, Alfaro should get the Reading catching job for most of the year. He will only be 22 to start the year, so there is plenty of time for him to develop as a catcher. Alfaro is already on the 40 man roster, so he could see major league time late in the year if he find success.
What Happened: Alfaro is not a normal catcher, he is a freak athlete playing catcher. He has a 70 or 80 arm, 60 or 70 raw power, and is an average or better runner. The problem has been all the things in between those tools. His approach is lacking and he swings at a lot of pitches he shouldn’t and doesn’t hit all the things he swings at. His receiving behind the plate is improved this year, but still is lacking the feel to be a lock to stay behind the plate, and despite the arm strength he doesn’t transfer and throw quickly. Unfortunately his season was cut short by an ankle injury requiring surgery (the injury occurred running the bases not while catching).
What Next: Alfaro will likely spend the rest of the season in Clearwater rehabbing and having the coaching staff tweak things. If he can stick behind the plate he can be an above average to All-Star catcher. He is enough of an athlete though that if he needs to move off the position to an outfield corner, or maybe even third base if needed, he can.