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Alfaro ranked MLB's sixth-best catching prospect

Phillies backstop boasts plenty of power, strong arm

By Todd Zolecki /

Thursday, January 18, 2018 11:39 AM ET

Philadelphia Phillies' Jorge Alfaro celebrates his home run in the dugout during the third inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals, Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

PHILADELPHIA -- Phillies catcher Jorge Alfaro is not one of those hitters that sees a lot of pitches or draws a lot of walks.

The Phils value those things. They love hitters that "control the strike zone." But that does not mean they do not have high expectations for Alfaro. On Thursday, Alfaro was ranked as the sixth-best catching prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline. He is going to make the Opening Day roster, assuming he stays healthy, partly because he is out of options and partly because he showed promise in 29 games last season.

"The thing I think we're all most pleased about with Jorge is that he looks right now like he belongs and he feels it," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said late last season. "I think when you watch him, putting aside what his batting line is or his caught stealing percentage is and the actual production, he looks like he knows he belongs now and he's playing with confidence. He's learning and growing. By no means do we feel he's a finished product. But it's very encouraging heading into next year, to see what he's doing this year and the confidence he has."

:: Top 10 Prospects by Position ::

Alfaro, 24, hit .318 with six doubles, five home runs, 14 RBIs and an .874 OPS in 114 plate appearances. The Phillies' No. 5 prospect showed his tremendous power on Aug. 15, hitting a home run in San Diego that left his bat at 114.2 mph. It was the hardest hit home run by a Phillies hitter since Statcast™'s debut in 2015.

Alfaro also walked just three times and struck out 33 times. He saw only 3.43 pitches per plate appearance, last out of 16 Phillies hitters with 100 or more plate appearances. Former Phils hitting coach Matt Stairs said during the final weekend of the season that Alfaro might not be a hitter that walks more than 20-30 times a season, but he was encouraged because Alfaro swung at fewer pitches outside the strike zone.

Video: Statcast™: Alfaro headlines Phillies' longest homers

Defensively, Alfaro has a tremendous arm. He recorded three of the four hardest throws by a catcher last season. His average of 88.1 mph on "max effort" throws (those in a player's 90th percentile of effort or higher) was best in baseball among catchers with a minimum of five tracked "max effort" plays. Eight of his 10 tracked throws to second base clocked below the MLB average of 2.0 seconds.

Interestingly, Alfaro threw out only 23.5 percent (4-of-17) of base stealers, although other factors could be in play (pitchers time to plate, balls in dirt, etc.).

There is no question Alfaro needs to improve his catching. Baseball Prospectus' framing runs metric ranked Alfaro 42nd out of 73 catchers with a minimum of 1,000 framing chances at -2.5 runs.

But the tools are there. It is why the Phillies wanted Alfaro in the Cole Hamels trade with Texas in July 2015. If Alfaro can harness those tools, the Phillies could have a frontline catcher on their hands. He will get his opportunity to prove himself in '18.

Todd Zolecki has covered the Phillies since 2003, and for since 2009. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.