2016 Phillies Report Card: Jorge Alfaro
In 2016, perhaps no one in the Phils minor league system bolstered their claim to national rankings as much as Jorge Alfaro. Crawford, Williams, Thompson and Kilome, among others, all had at least some struggles, or at best maintained the outlook national evaluators will put on their game. Dylan Cozens and Rhys Hoskins certainly put people on notice at AA, as did some low level arms, particularly Adonis Medina. Alfaro, on the other hand, grew into his already-high ceiling, with reportedly improved defense and steady offense. His minor league season on the whole, and the reports about his progress lead me to believe he is closer to becoming a star than any Phillie under 25 not named J.P. Crawford.
The Columbian born 23 year-old was added to the Phils 40-man roster late in 2015, and did make his big league debut in 2016, though who knows if the club would have used Andrew Knapp instead if the roster situations were different – Knapp was not on the 40-man this year. Alfaro had 2 hits in 17 MLB PAs, with 8 Ks to 1 (intentional) walk. No way to judge that.
The pre-season scouting report on Alfaro showed us power, good speed for a catcher that should play in the outfield, a hit tool that’s got promise but suffers from a good bit of swing and miss, and defense that needs work, but includes a near-elite arm. His power has been shown in the pro ranks – he hit 18 pro home runs in 2013 and 17 more in 2014, but had a well-documented ankle injury in 2015 that slowed his pace to just 5. And hitting 15 bombs in 2016, even in a hitter’s environment such as Reading, shows that the power is continuing to play against better and better pitching. 105 strikeouts and 22 walks are red flags over just about 425 PAs, but he managed to hit for a bit of average at .285, which kept his .325 OBP from looking worse than it should on a guy with a ~5% walk rate. In the end, his pop helped him to a .783 OPS.
But his defense is the key, as it has been for years now, and reports on his blocking and mobility seemed to be consistently good throughout the year. I have been a bit of a sucker for catchers in the past, (wait until I write up Cameron Rupp later this month), and so seeing reports that hedge towards a guy figuring it out behind the plate are about all I need to get all revved up about a decent hitting backstop.
I’ll Grade the season an A-. Could have seen a little more from him at the plate, for sure, but I’m satisfied.
I was planning to finish up this report card late last night, but something was distracting me. Those who follow me on Twitter know my political affiliations, and can guess what I would think of the outcome of our Presidential election, if they haven’t already seen me express it. So let me just say a bit about Donald Trump’s campaign and election and baseball, as it pertains to Jorge Alfaro and so many more players throughout the major and minor leagues:
Players from Latin American and Caribbean nations are represented in significant numbers throughout affiliated pro ball. Most of them have people working on their behalf to secure their international status from a very early age, mainly via work visas. Those players’ kin can assume no such privilege, and among that group, there are likely to be a fair number of undocumented workers living in this country. Our national pastime’s Latin American players have got to be more worried today about their families, their friends, their former teammates and coaches, than they were on Tuesday morning. I feel for them and wish them well, and I hope and pray that the anti-immigrant vitriol that has been codified by this election result does not come to cause personal harm to any of them or any of those they care about as deeply as we do about members of our own families.