Name: Jorge Alfaro
DOB: June 11, 1993
Acquired: 2010 International Free Agent
The Texas Rangers turned a few heads in January 2010 by signing 16-year-old catcher Jorge Alfaro for a reported $1.3 million bonus––a record for any Colombian-born prospect.
According to MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez, the Phillies, Mariners, Indians, Giants, and Yankees had all expressed interest in Alfaro.
Because he grew up in an area that isn't quite known for its baseball, Alfaro entered the professional game with little experience against high-level competition. He became well-known throughout the industry after attending showcases in the Dominican Republic. He also played in the Dominican Prospect League for a short time.
Alfaro's raw potential is among the best in the Rangers' organization, but he is just that––raw. While the talent is evident in workouts (as shown in the video below), he currently struggles in game action.
The 6-foot-2 backstop attended spring training in Arizona shortly after signing last year. He remained in the States for extended spring training but suffered a hand injury early on and sat out most of the first half.
Alfaro joined the Rangers' Dominican Summer League club when it began play in June. Overall, he appeared in 48 games, batting .221 with five doubles, two triples, and one home run. He drew five walks and struck out 48 times.
After getting off to an extremely slow start, Alfaro began to produce some results in the season's second half. During his final 23 games, he posted a respectable .276/.323/.402 slash line.
DSL Rangers Manager Kenny Holmberg says the prospect was beginning to show some maturity.
"He took some time to grow up," Holmberg said. "He took some pressure off himself and started to pick up his teammates a little more, which is tough for a young kid to do because you're so focused on what you're doing. We took a little bit of pressure off him and tried to teach him a little leadership skills, which is a quality you need in a catcher. It kind of started there. Once we took that pressure off, he became a little more relaxed."
Holmberg also believes that Alfaro, an aggressive hitter, benefitted by learning a little about his hitting zone.
"We challenged him to very simply look for balls up in the hitting zone and lay off balls that were down and out of his hitting zone," he said. "It's a simple little gimmick we tried, and it took off.
"We did it for a week. On balls that were up in his zone when he swung, he was hitting .625 with a home run, three RBI, two doubles, and a triple. And balls that he was swinging at down out of the zone, he was 0-for-5 with five punchouts. So we took those stats and presented it to him and he bought into it a little bit. He just started rolling."
Before Alfaro signed his professional contract, he was actually an outfielder. Even at physical maturation, Alfaro should remain a decent athlete. But the Rangers felt his strong frame (TexasFarmReview.com's Jason Parks believes Alfaro's body at maturation could look much like that of former big league backstop Charles Johnson) and phenomenal arm strength would ultimately profile best behind the plate.
Alfaro spent the 2010 campaign working out the kinks in his receiving skills––something he'll be doing over the next few seasons. And on the whole, Holmberg says he was impressed with the prospect's development.
"The arm strength is incredible," he said. "It's a plus-plus tool for him. Receiving, blocking, and mobility is what we need to work on to get him better. He busts his butt every single day on those things. He's receiving the ball much better, he's blocking much better.
"The mobility, I think, is going to come with time––once he gets stretched out and the body figures out where he's at. He's not your prototypical bounce-around, block-everything catcher right now. But I think that's a point of development that is so fun. You get to see where he's at now and then in a year, two years or five years from now, hopefully he's doing very very good things behind the plate."
Also See: Lone Star Dugout Q&A: Ryley Westman (February 16, 2010)
Rangers Minor League Notes (March 18, 2010)
Breaking down the DSL Rangers (June 18, 2010)
Lone Star Dugout Q&A: Kenny Holmberg (August 11, 2010)
Rangers Instructional League Notes (September 22, 2010)
Top Prospects, Top Tools (January 14, 2011)
Mark Anderson's Top 20 Rangers Prospects (February 14, 2011)
Batting and Power: While there are currently hitters with more actualized game power, Alfaro clearly has the best raw power in the Rangers' system right now. It's an elite 70-grade tool, and he already puts on impressive displays of pop in batting practice. He has excellent strength for his age to go with quick, strong wrists. His swing mechanics, however, are wildly inconsistent and led to a .221/.278/.291 slash line in the Dominican Summer League last season. But it's not necessarily unique for a 17-year-old to be mechanically raw, and he shows flashes that could lead to a future average hit tool. At this point, what's important is that he has the tools for a future impact bat. Only time will tell if he can develop them.
Base Running and Speed: Despite the big frame for his age, Alfaro is a decent athlete that shows current fringe-average speed. He'll likely be a tick below average after he matures physically. Though he could be a passable runner for his position, speed and base stealing won't be a major part of his game. He stole one base in five attempts with the DSL Rangers last summer.
Defense: Alfaro's plus-plus arm strength and decent athleticism give him a nice base of raw tools to start with. Though he's mechanically inconsistent, his arm and quick feet lead to advanced pop times and helped him nab 13-of-41 (32%) attempted base stealers last summer. Still relatively new to catching, Alfaro has very underdeveloped receiving skills that will need to be refined in the coming years. He's also still in the process of learning the English language. While there's a lot to like in the potential, it's almost impossible to throw an accurate projection on his glove at this point.
Projection: Alfaro has the raw talent to become an All-Star caliber backstop that stands out both offensively and defensively. But he is light years away from actualizing that ceiling, and it may be another couple years before he's able to translate the talent into statistical results––even at the lower levels. In watching the prospect during workouts, it's easy to fall in love with the tools. He possesses elite raw power and arm strength, and his hit tool and overall glove could become at least average. His game needs lots of refinement over the coming years, but his raw talent is among the organization's best.
2011 Outlook: Alfaro, who will turn 18 in June, will begin his season at extended spring training before making his official state-side debut with the Surprise Rangers. He will almost certainly spend the entire season in Arizona. As stated above, he shouldn't yet be expected to produce dominant results. At this point, he just needs to show steady progress in becoming a more refined hitter and receiver.
|2010||DSL Rangers (DSL)||.221||172||5||1||23||18||1/5||5||48||.278||.291|
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