Nov 2, 2013; Surprise, AZ, USA; Texas Rangers catcher Jorge Alfaro against the East during the Fall Stars Game at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Jorge Alfaro is a typical Texas Rangers prospect. His raw tools are astounding. His upside is mind boggling. His probability of reaching that ceiling is worrying. The Rangers knew all of this when they signed the young Colombian in January of 2010 with a $1.3 million signing bonus. When he signed Alfaro, was a thin middle infielder playing mostly third base. Alfaro is one of many young Rangers that the scouts saw potential at a position other than the one a player was currently stationed, see Nick Martinez former second baseman.
Standing in at a tall 6’2 185 pounds (per MLB.com) Jorge Alfaro bats and throws right handed. Jorge just turned 21 5 days ago and for his birthday gave himself a nice present of his 7th homer of the season. Of all his tools, his most impressive is his plus plus arm that MLB.com ranked as the best for a position player in the minors. When opposing baserunners do decide to run on him, which isn’t often, they do so with fear in their hearts. Opponents are caught 32% of the time when trying to steal against Alfaro. This is a high rate for someone who has only been catching regularly for 3 years. What most impresses me is his baseball IQ and how fast it is straying off the bag even for a slight moment. MLB.com’s Bernie Pleskoff had an article scouting the young Ranger farmhand back in November that is a good read if you’re interested.
Catchers are the most important defensive player on the diamond. No other player is as helpful to a team’s success as a top flight catcher. See the Cardinal’s Yadier Molina and the Giant’s Buster Posey. A catcher’s job is to control the pitching staff, give them the confidence to throw the pitches they want in specific counts and to know how to attack opposing hitters. By all accounts Jorge Alfaro has been doing that this year. Both he and fellow Myrtle Beach catcher David Lyon have been keeping an extremely detailed book on opposing hitters and working well with pitchers on game planning against opposing teams before their starts.
Though this defensive prowess is impressive it does not come without some worrisome statistics on the defensive side. The main worry is the amount of passed balls allowed by Jorge Alfaro. This year he has allowed 16 passed balls and leads the Carolina league. Alfaro also has 9 errors on the season. Many of those passed balls came early in the season and this slowing pace is a good sign of improvement that you look for in a developing player.
If for some awful reason the whole catching thing doesn’t work out for Jorge, his bat alone could carry him to the majors. Baseball prospectus rates his raw power as a 70 on the 20-80 scale. In order for this raw power to play, Alfaro will need to cut down his strike outs, he currently has 64, and be more selective at the plate. Every time I have watched him bat at Myrtle Beach, he has looked locked in on fastballs and too susceptible to breaking stuff. I have yet to see him make solid contact on a pitch tailing away from a right hander. When he makes contact on a fastball you had better look out. Alfaro does do a good job of using the whole field when he does put the ball in play which has helped him rack up his 14 doubles and 8 long balls this season. His speed and that power combined gifted him with his 3 triples on the season. He currently is putting up a slash line of .265/.321/.442. This isn’t fantastic but he is making better contact than last year and doing so against more advanced pitching. He has amassed 64 strikeouts to pair with 15 walks.
Ivan Pudge Rodriguez is a comparable player if Jorge Alfaro puts it all together. Yes you heard that right Alfaro is that kind of a special player. A player with a career average of .296, a player who had 4 seasons with 10 or more stolen bases from a position that is expected to have no speed whatsoever. The same player who had 5 seasons with 20 or more homers and won 10 consecutive gold gloves and 13 overall. Yes that is what Jorge Alfaro could be like if all the things come together. Alfaro is a heady baserunner with enough quickness to get steals with wheels like Pudge and has all those other special things from behind the backstop that only come around once every 2o years or so. The Rangers could have 2 of these players in a 30 year span, and what a thing that would be.
Look for Alfaro to keep launching homers in Myrtle Beach but once he slows up on those defensive lapses he has been vulnerable to behind the plate Frisco will be his home. I could see Jorge being promoted by the end of the year very easily probably not any time soon. Normally I say that no player is untouchable, but I have to think it would take one heck of a payload to get the Rangers front office to part with this young talent. You just have to be patient with these catchers, they take longer to develop than any other type of player, basically no backstops are up and dominating the majors at age 19 like good ole’ Pudge. However this unicorn of a player will be worth the wait if he makes it to the show. For now just sit back and enjoy the ride.
Scouting Grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 65 | Run: 45 | Arm: 75 | Field: 55 | Overall: 60