by Jordan Shusterman
FOX Sports MLB Writer
For someone who only turned 29 last month, Jorge Alfaro He’s been an interesting figure in the baseball world for a very long time.
Despite having fewer than 500 Major League games to his name, Padres’ physical abilities have intrigued baseball fans and fans alike for more than a decade. Signed by Rangers in January 2010 for a $1.3 million bonus – then a record-breaking Colombian player – it didn’t take long for whispers about his exciting game-penetrating potential.
His unparalleled display of tools – especially for hunting – in the back fields of Arizona a year later earned him the nickname “Legend” From Jason Parks, then a prospective baseball newscaster who has since worked for the Cubs and most recently served as a professional scouting manager for the Diamondbacks.
The hype for Alvaro grew further as he moved up the minor league ladder, culminating when he was listed as one of the main prospects in the deal that sent Cole Hummels to Texas on the 2015 trade deadline.
Although he made his MLB debut the following season, Alfaro didn’t get regular playing time with the Philies until 2018, when he scored a .731 OPS in 377 board appearances but struggled hard behind the board. It was clearly not enough to convince the organization that he was the owner of the future, as they proceeded to include Alfaro in the trade to Marlins in exchange for JT Realmuto in February 2019.
After a solid debut season with Miami reaching 0.262 with 18 Reptile owners, Alvaro saw his role gradually diminish over the next two years, seemingly putting him on the sidelines of the list.
The Albadres were clearly not a good fit as a potential trading destination for Alvaro at the start of his latest out-of-the-ordinary season. They recently spent significant prospective capital to acquire Austin Nola, and they also had one of the most promising prospects in baseball at Luis Camposano. Victor Caratini was still on the list as well.
However, when the Padres eventually swing a deal for Alfaro last November, shortly before closing, it wasn’t hard to see why: Padres GM AJ Preller was one of the first people in baseball to identify Alfaro’s uncommon ability, as He was the scouting manager for the Rangers when they signed Alvaro as amateurs in 2010.
Preller had a track record of bringing in former Rangers prospects such as Jurickson Profar (and Nomar Mazara shortly after he traded for Alfaro). Although Alfaro’s raw ability has translated into MLB production frugally by this point, if anyone were to take another pilot on it, it would be Preller, list building would be damned.
Alvaro was impressed with spring training, and Caratini was traded with the Brewers shortly before opening day, paving the way for Alvaro to form the squad.
Now in his fourth organization, Alfaro thrives for the Padres and has emerged as a fan favorite thanks to several choppy hits and one simple, sordid answer in his post-match interview:
(Also, let’s be honest: There’s no better way to love your fan base than swearing on TV.)
The catchers are baseball students. With all the squats, bouncing balls and gritty balls in the face they put up with daily — not to mention all the game planning involved before they throw in the gear — expectations for a catcher’s offensive contributions have dwindled dramatically. This is part of the reason why smart teams like the Astros seem so comfortable attacking from the position of the catcher in favor of two veterans who excel at the dirty work.
This is also what makes a hunter like Alvaro so exceptional. The player’s ability to withstand the rigors of a situation while maintaining any semblance of explosive sports seems like a modern miracle.
The raw numbers beyond late-break championships are impressive in their own right: His 122 wRC+ team is ranked fifth among the catchers with at least 150 board appearances. But what makes Alfaro different is still the same raw physical tools he has shown since he was 16 years old.
by Statcast’s running speed measurementHe is the fastest catcher in baseball, averaging 29.8 feet per second, the same mark for defensive players as Brett Phillips and teammate Trent Gresham. With Statcast’s recently reintroduced Pop Time metric that measures how fast a catcher can reach second base to cut back on a potential base heist, Alvaro ranks second in baseball.
Coincidentally, his biggest competition between hunters of both classes is Realmuto, who hardly beats him for Best time for pop music It is the second close in sprint speed.
Unlike Realmuto, whose frame indicates it can play almost any position on a diamond, Alfaro still has the thick, sturdy build traditionally associated with hunters – yet it can still perfectly fly. This terrible level of sports is what earns the player a nickname like “The Legend”.
Add all that to his brute strength, which is still an elite. When he connects, he can hit the ball as hard as almost anyone in the game. Homer hit 114.8 mph against Arizona, and his 115.2 mph streak against Colorado It puts him in the 98th percentile for maximum exit speed in MLB.
To be clear, Alvaro still has his flaws. His checkered discipline (less than 5% walking rate and over 30% strike rate) and inconsistent defense outside the elite arm (below average in receiving and framing) were enough to keep him splitting time with Nola, despite Nola’s disappointing offensive output.
But if Alvaro’s first half has taught us anything, you don’t need to be a regular player to be an influential player.
And for a San Diego team that will need contributions from every part of the roster in order to keep up with the Dodgers at NL West, Alfaro was a great find.
Jordan Shusterman half Tweet embed and baseball writer for FOX Sports. He lives in DC but is a big fan of the Seattle Mariners and loves watching KBO, which means he doesn’t sleep much. You can follow him on Twitter j_shusterman_.
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