When a team trades a player like Cole Hamels, they don't want to miss on the players that they get in exchange. With that in mind, there was at least a little concern among fans about catcher Jorge Alfaro, who was a centerpiece of the deal last July. At the time, the 22-year old was coming off ankle injury and there was little to no chance that he would play in the Phillies organization last summer. The ankle injury was bad enough that that it required surgery last June, and some were concerned about how it might affect Alfaro long-term. If this spring is any indication, Alfaro is fully recovered and completely ready to show off his baseball skills.
Last Sunday, Alfaro got the start behind the plate against the University of Tampa. He showed all of the tools he was advertised to possess when he threw out a runner attempting to steal early in the game, and then legged out a groundball that had double-play written all over it. He would later score from second on a base hit, leading coaches to turn to the favorite old phrase "he runs well for a catcher."
The truth is that Alfaro doesn't have a lot of speed - just enough to be considered able to run well for a catcher - but he knows how to run the bases and he doesn't lay back on a groundball. He goes full throttle on every play and puts what speed he does have to good use.
"I give it 100-percent all the time, even running the bases," Alfaro told Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com recently.
Prior to last weekend's game, Alfaro had already been drawing rave reviews for the power displays that he's put on in batting practice. He's also shown the plus catching skills and arm that was advertised when the Phillies insisted he be part of the Hamels deal. Considering that he's working with a whole new crop of pitchers, Alfaro is quickly learning how to work with them, helping them to be confident in having him behind the plate. In camp, Alfaro has had a slew of teachers, including veteran Carlos Ruiz, Phillies catching coach John McLaren, catching coordinator Ernie Whitt and Reading manager Dusty Wathan, who will likely be Alfaro's manager when the season opens next month. As a former catcher, Wathan may be the perfect fit to continue helping Alfaro work on improving his footwork behind the plate, making him an even better defensive catcher. With a strong arm, it's the rest of the mechanics that are holding down Alfaro's ability to throw out would-be base stealers. In his minor league career, Alfaro has thrown out 27-percent (97-out-of-363) of base stealers in 305 games behind the plate.
McLaren was the one who recently drew comparisons between Alfaro and former major league catcher Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez.
While Alfaro is likely to start the season at Double-A, it's likely not going to be easy to keep him there for too long. If he continues to show the offensive skills he has shown in the past, and has improved defensive skills, he's likely going to force the Phillies to make a decision between he and fellow catching prospect Andrew Knapp, who figures to start the season catching at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, but could potentially be moved to a different position should both he and Alfaro continue to improve.
For now, the Phillies will keep both behind the plate and see how things play out between the two prospects. After all, having two top-notch catching prospects is a problem every organization wishes they had to deal with.
Jorge Alfaro minor league stats
|Minors (6 seasons)||453||1688||245||441||101||16||52||250||35||16||95||492||.261||.326||.432|