In the aftermath of the community prospect rankings wrapping up last year, I figured I'd do write-ups for each Ranger prospect who finished in the top 25, in the order that they were selected. It was something that seemed to go well, and so I’ve decided to do this again.
Two caveats about this: First, I have no first-hand information about most of these guys, and for the hard-core prospect-philes out there, you probably already know everything that I'll be writing about these players.
Secondly, since I did this last season, a lot of the material is going to be a repeat from last year. I’m going to cut-and-paste certain things from last year, simply because I don’t see the need to completely re-invent the wheel in terms of talking about what Martin Perez did in 2008 or something like that. So don’t complain about that.
Moving right along, today we are looking at the #6 player in the community prospect rankings, Jorge Alfaro.
Alfaro is a 6'2", 185 lb. catcher, a righthanded hitter who won't turn 20 until June, 2013. Signed in January, 2010, out of Colombia as a 16 year old, and commanding a $1.3 million signing bonus, Alfaro is a player who gives you a lot to dream about, but who is so raw and so far away that it is hard to get a good handle on where exactly he should go in the community rankings.
Alfaro played in the Dominican Summer League in 2010 as a 16 year old and struggled with the bat, putting up a .221/.278/.291 line in 187 plate appearances. Despite this, he was brought over to the United States for the 2011 season and played in the Northwest League, largely populated by players three to four years older than Alfaro. Nevertheless, he held his own, putting up a .300/.345/.481 line in 171 plate appearances.
Alfaro checked in at #8 in Baseball America's Northwest League Top 20 Rankings, getting praise for his power, soft hands, and big arm, but getting downgraded for being overly aggressive. The over-aggressiveness also shows up when taking a closer look at his 2011 numbers...Alfaro struck out 54 times in 171 plate appearances, while walking just 4 times, after striking out 48 times and walking 5 times in 2010. While Alfaro is young and raw, and was playing in a league that was above his head, that sort of lack of plate discipline is a big red flag. While the .345 OBP is respectable, it was fueled by a .420 BABIP and more HBPs than walks.
The plate discipline improved in 2012, with Alfaro spending the entire season in the low-A Sally League with Hickory. Alfaro walked 16 times in 300 plate appearances – still not great, but compared to his 6 unintentional walks in 358 plate appearances as a pro prior to 2012, its an improvement. Contact was an issue, as Alfaro did strike out 84 times, but he did put up a .261/.320/.430 line, and as a 19 year old catcher in a pitcher’s park in a pitcher’s league in A ball, that’s still pretty decent.
Rankings of Alfaro varied widely. Baseball America did not include him on their top 20 prospects list for the South Atlantic League in 2012, but did rank him 9th on the Rangers top 10 list. Keith Law had Alfaro 8th on his Ranger list – basically the same as BA, since BA included Leonys Martin, and Law didn’t. MLB.com, meanwhile, had Alfaro ranked #88 in their overall top 100. Jason Cole has Alfaro ranked #5 on his top 50 Ranger prospect list – ahead of Leonys Martin – and Jamey Newberg also had Alfaro ranked #5 on his list. John Sickels, on the other hand, has Alfaro all the way down at #10. Jason Parks hasn’t come out with his rankings, but I expect him to have Alfaro at around #5 on the Rangers’ list, and in the bottom quarter of his top 100.
Enthusiasm about Alfaro is largely driven by his impressive power potential and his big arm. In his chat session this week, Jason Parks described Alfaro as being a 6 runner, with 7+ raw power and an 8 arm. If the arm and power do develop that much, and if his hit tool progresses, Alfaro could be an All Star.
As far as the future goes for Alfaro, he will likely spend the 2013 season in Myrtle Beach, continuing to refine his skills behind the plate and work on translating his offensive potential into results. As far as the major league club goes, if things break right for Alfaro, he could be competing for a major league starting catcher job by 2015 or 2016.
What sort of ceiling does Alfaro have? Given the skill set Alfaro is exhibiting now -- big arm, big power, athletic, the type of catcher who should block the plate well and give you good defense, but who isn't going to walk a lot or hit for average, lots of Ks -- Lance Parrish is the comp that comes to mind for me. Parrish was an eight time All Star, six time Silver Slugger winner, three time Gold Glove winner. His 324 career home runs tie him with Gary Carter for fifth most by a player who got at least 80% of his playing time behind the plate, and his 35.7 bWAR is 18th all time in that same group, between Roy Campanella and Jim Sundberg.
A Lance Parrish-type career for Alfaro would be a home run for the Rangers' scouting and minor league system, a very successful career. Just keep in mind...Alfaro has miles to go before he can get there.