On Thursday afternoon, the Dodgers and Phillies swapped 35-plus year-old catchers, with Carlos Ruiz heading to Los Angeles and A.J. Ellis going to Philadelphia. It was an otherwise low key move that garnered headlines due to Ellis’ popularity in the clubhouse (particularly with Clayton Kershaw), yet the greatest impact of the deal has flown under the radar - a legend has been called up. And if you aren’t familiar with my reasoning for referring to Jorge Alfaro as “The Legend,” then you are missing out. Here is what I wrote about the 23-year-old catcher on our Phillies top-ten prospects list:
Despite being only 22, Alfaro has been on the prospect map for the better part of four years, having been lavished with praise by writers-turned-scouts Kevin Goldstein and Jason Parks as early as 2011. Why? Put simply, Alfaro is one of the toolsiest catchers in recent memory, with legitimately above-average speed, and plus to plus plus power and arm strength (though, his speed may be in question on the heels of his ankle injury). Both Baseball Prospectus and Keith Law ranked him in their midseason top-50, as he more than held his own at Double-A. Alfaro may not hit for a high average (his hit tool is fringe-average to average), but he has the power to regularly hit 20-plus home runs, and the arm and athleticism to be an asset behind the dish.
Heading into the promotion, Alfaro was batting .279/.321/.442 at Double-A Reading, with 60 R, 18 2B, 2 3B, 13 HR, 61 RBI, and 3 SB in 403 PA (which is about 10% above-average by wRC+). He has been mostly healthy this year, after missing most of 2015 with injuries, and his all-around production has been quite strong. His defense in particular has begun to catch-up to his bat, and most are confident that he can stick behind the plate long-term - and be an asset back there.
If you look at what Alfaro has done in 2016, I think that you can get a pretty good idea of what he can produce at the highest level. A solid batting average, above-average power numbers (particularly for a catcher), and a limited number of walks should be his modus operandi, and I am intrigued to see how the Phillies will handle him going forward.
In the short-term, however, this may well be a brief cameo. Ellis will join the team and get some playing time, and Cameron Rupp has been quite good throughout the year - and that leaves precious little room for Alfaro. I would not be surprised if he ended up back in the minors before the end of the weekend, in fact. And that means that his fantasy value for the remainder of 2016 is close to nil.