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Prospect Preview: Jorge Alfaro

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Jorge Alfaro was a popular sleeper pick amongst prospect hounds entering 2012 thanks to his impressive showing in short-season ball in 2011 in his age 17 season (he turned 18 on June 11). He ranked on many of the Rangers top 10 lists, generally in the back half, which is no insult given the impressive state of the Rangers farm system. Alfaro received so much hype that Baseball Prospectus' Jason Parks begun adding #TheLegend when discussing him on Twitter. He's earned that hype based on remarkable tools and a performance that backed them up, all while playing against consistently older competition.

Read more after the jump...

Alfaro's 2012 season got off to a rocky start with an early April hamstring injury that he re-aggravated by attempting to return to quickly. To that end he's only accrued 176 at-bats thus far, producing a .261/.324/.446 slash line in his age 18 season. While that number of at-bats could certainly qualify as a small sample size, it's encouraging to see positive results either way. It was known coming into the year that Alfaro's approach was crude despite some ability to identify pitches. That has played itself out in a BB% of 5.6%, which may seem drastically low, but is still more than double his 2011 BB% of 2.3%. His K% is also quite high, registering at 26.7%, but that is still an improvement on 2011 rate of 31.6%. For Alfaro to post the line he has while moving up a level and improving his strikeout and walk rates is a truly impressive feat.

Highly athletic for a catcher, Alfaro's defense still has plenty of holes in it. He can move well behind the plate and has a rifle for a right arm, but his footwork is a work in progress and that can cause his throws to be offline. He is raw in most aspects of his game, and his defense is no exception, though it projects as above-average given time and development. While his defense is imperative to his value on the field, Alfaro made himself known to prospectors due to his remarkable raw power that Baseball America rated plus-plus. He taps into that plus-plus power by using his superb bat speed paired with impressive hip rotation. Alfaro ceiling and floor have huge gaps between them, and where he lands will be heavily affected by his hit tool. As discussed above, he can struggle to make contact, but as long as he can make enough to tap into his power, he has a big league future. If he can develop that tool enough to make consistent contact, he has 25 home run power, which would make him a star given the incredibly low offensive bar at catcher. As much upside as Alfaro has, he's still a 19 year old kid in Lo-A, and a lot can go wrong between now and reaching the major leagues.

While Jurickson Profar is at the vanguard (sorry, I've been watching a lot of Game of Thrones) of the Rangers prospects, Jorge Alfaro is part of the next wave of position players, as he shares the field with 2B Rougned Odor, Luis Sardinas, as well as uber prospect project Jordan Akins and former first round pick Kellin Deglan. Alfaro stands out from all of them (save Akins) on a tools standpoint, and though he won't be quick to arrive, he could be a middle of the order hitter as a catcher, and those are rare indeed.

Source Material:
Baseball America
Kevin Goldstein/Baseball Prospectus
FanGraphs