SDI Prospect Rankings: #2 Jorge Alfaro
SDI Prospect Rankings: #9 Luke Jackson
SDI Prospect Rankings: #8 Lewis Brinson
SDI Prospect Rankings: #7 Luis Ortiz
SDI Prospect Rankings: #6 Nick Williams
SDI Prospect Rankings: #5 Jake Thompson
SDI Prospect Rankings: #4 Alex “Chi Chi” Gonzalez
SDI Prospect Rankings: #3 Nomar Mazara
At the ripe old age of 16 in 2010, Jorge Alfaro signed his first contract to play pro baseball. The Colombian was primarily scouted by uber scout Don Welke, with involvement from Rodolfo Rosario and Hamilton Sarabia contributing as well. Originally, Jorge played the corner infield spots. Welke, with all his insight and wisdom, observed something about Alfaro (possibly the rocket arm) that made him think to put Jorge behind the dish. Catcher is the most difficult position on the diamond, so developing a franchise catcher takes a lot of time. Though his rawness as a catcher shows often, this young man has all the potential to be a stud backstop for a long time in this league.
Since his signing in 2010, the Jorge hype machine has been running on full cylinders. Primary procurers of the machine include the Ranger’s front office, Jason Parks (Again RIP), and most every evaluator to watch the man play. The front office has been extremely reticent to include Jorge in any trade talks, including for Cole Hamels. Jorge was a make or break piece for Philadelphia in those trade talks and Texas’ reluctance is likely what ultimately ended talks. A side note: the Phillies appear adamant about adding a star catching talent for Hamels as they are reportedly asking Boston to give up backstop prospect Blake Swihart for a deal to find fruition, but Boston refuses to budge.
Talent evaluators wait for The Legend to have a breakout year. Several of them thought it might happen last year primarily due to not occurring in 2013 because of missing a chunk of the season to injury. Evaluators didn’t get what they expected in 2014, like Ranger fans. Alfaro put up solid numbers across 121 games split between High-A Myrtle Beach and Double-A Frisco. One peculiar stat last year was Jorge’s batting average that was the exact same at both levels, .261. Jorge spent most of the year in Myrtle Beach, not receiving his Double-A promotion until August. One major change I noticed from April to August was in his patience. Whenever I saw Jorge early with the Pelicans, he would chase every right handed slider. It looked like me taking BP, except that it didn’t at all. One big reason for the struggle is that Jorge can drill the daylights out of a fastball and he knows it. And pitchers know it. And scouts know it. Everybody knows that he can lock in on heat better than off speed stuff. His aggression was exploited in the Carolina League. Through the course of the season, he worked on working counts and barreling up off speed pitches.
However, not everything was coming up roses for Jorge last year. In 90 games behind the dish, Jorge yielded 23 passed balls. This passed ball issue is maddening because he has the physical ability to be fantastic in this area. Several evaluators noted that Jorge has difficulty staying mentally engaged for every pitch. Locking in mentally for every play is a huge part of prospect development, especially for catchers. His aggression makes him successful in several areas, but it severely hurts his pitch framing ability. He is always active and moving around behind the plate. Watch some of the great defensive catchers and you will see they are like a stone behind the dish. Catchers should set the target and hold until ball hits leather. Jorge is in motion all through the delivery like a fidgety drummer. Another detraction on his defensive value is his lack of experience calling a game. Like his plate discipline, he grew quickly in ability through 2014. It isn’t as rough as 2013, but it isn’t quite an asset to his game, which is an important skill for a franchise catcher. Also his footwork on throwing out base stealers is sloppy, limiting his bazooka arm. This gives you a little peak at why catchers take super long to develop. Seeing all this also makes me realize how much of a beast Pudge was to be killing it in the bigs at age 19.
Speaking of Pudge, who better to mentor a potential all-star catcher than one of the greats to play the position? Last year before I wrote for SDI, I had an opportunity to sit down with Jorge and talk baseball. We chatted about how helpful it was learning from Rodriguez, broken scoreboards, and picking off straying runners. My favorite thing about watching Alfaro play is his willingness to pick off base runners who forget about him. This trait is shared with Pudge and current Ranger catcher Robinson Chirinos. Seldom few things does Jorge enjoy more than catching an oblivious dude on base leaning the wrong way.
To bring this to a close, Jorge Alfaro is a name with which you should familiarize yourself. If Welke’s vision of this kid comes to fruition, Texas is going to have a heck of a backstop. Hop on the hype train now, the space is plentiful. Maybe Alfaro will have a Gallo-esque breakout year before he hits the majors, maybe he doesn’t. The only way you’ll know is if you get yourself down to that park named after a tasty carbonated beverage. Now I’m off to watch random videos of Alfaro smacking the bejesus out of baseballs because I’m ready for spring training. Are you?