When MLB.com released its top-100 prospect list, I was excited to see shortstop Luis Sardinas included at number 84. As my eyes scrolled from left-to-right across the page, a second Hickory Crawdads player ranked 88th. His name? Jorge Alfaro. The 19-year old ranked fifth on my list of best catchers scouted in 2012 behind a quartet of current and former top-100 players.
Video after the jump
My summary of Alfaro from the late September piece;
It’s impossible to not be enamored with Jorge Alfaro’s physical gifts, but projecting how they come together on a baseball field is awfully difficult. On defense, he presents as a catcher with little refinement and a demeanor bordering on lackadaisical. On offense, Alfaro has impressive raw power, but is a bit out of control combining unbridled swings with poor plate discipline. Few catchers can match Alfaro in terms of ceiling, but his floor is potentially non-existent.
From a physical standpoint, Alfaro is unique compared to catchers scouted previously. It’s easy to laud the athleticism of lean, explosive backstops like Christian Bethancourt or Travis D’Arnaud. But when a catcher is built like a tank, one assumes physical strength will be his only asset. Not true in Alfaro’s case as I pulled multiple 4.05 home-to-first times from video — Impressive speed for a center fielder — Unheard of for a catcher.
This isn’t to say he’ll keep his speed at full physical maturity. With his build, he won’t. However, Alfaro’s present speed supports prospect chatter of his being an elite athlete. It also allows for forgiveness throughout the prospect profile when discussing his underdeveloped baseball skills.
At the plate, Alfaro’s set up reminds me of Jefry Marte, a once promising Mets prospect recently traded to the Oakland Athletics. He possesses above average bat speed, but length in the back of his swing causes it to play down. In my two game look, Alfaro swung through ten or more pitches showing little feel for contact. He also chased a number of fastballs up in the zone, as well as off-speed pitches low-and-away.
Alfaro’s triple slash line of .257/.317/.426 was above average for the league, but boosted by an unsustainable BABIP of .349. Additionally, his strikeout rate of 28% against a walk rate of 5.3% correlated to the prospect seen in person. If there’s a silver lining, it’s the fact his walk rate more than doubled from the previous year and strikeout dropped by nearly 4%. Alfaro will always be a player with swing-and-miss in his offensive game, but should continue to lower strikeout totals as hitting skills continue to develop.
With catch and throw skills, Alfaro has a strong base to develop defensively from. His release is long, but Alfaro possesses the arm strength to shorten his throwing motion and maintain arm strength. Alfaro’s blocking instincts also require improvement as he was late to drop on pitches in the dirt causing him to react without proper technique.
Additionally, he seemed disinterested throughout the course of the game. From failing to back up bases to stabbing at pitches, Alfaro might have been tired as the season wound down, but he only logged 74 games played due to injury. I’m willing to give Alfaro the benefit of the doubt with the hope maturity remedies this.
After a season-plus of monitoring the development of Christian Bethancourt only to see him flounder offensively, I’m a bit hesitant to full endorse any catcher whose gap between present skills and projection is so great. Top-100 lists are subjective by nature, but Alfaro at number 88 was a surprise — Especially when Red Sox Henry Owens and Rockies Trevor Story ranked in the 90’s (Owens is the tall lefty striking out Alfaro in the embedded video).
Alfaro is a 1.3 million dollar lottery ticket, but his lofty ranking makes it apparent Jonathan Mayo’s contacts within the industry are expecting the Rangers to receive a significant return on their investment.