Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

Marlins News

Powerful Alfaro has work to do behind the plate

@JoeFrisaro
October 11, 2019

MIAMI -- Jorge Alfaro epitomizes what the Marlins are building. The 26-year-old catcher possesses plenty of athleticism and power, and he plays with passion no matter the situation or score. The question the Marlins have moving forward is whether Alfaro, still raw in many parts of his game, can refine

MIAMI -- Jorge Alfaro epitomizes what the Marlins are building. The 26-year-old catcher possesses plenty of athleticism and power, and he plays with passion no matter the situation or score.

The question the Marlins have moving forward is whether Alfaro, still raw in many parts of his game, can refine his all-around skillset to be the long-term answer behind the plate.

In his first season with the Marlins, there was no questioning Alfaro’s attitude or willingness to work, even in a season in which his team finished 57-105.

“I’m going to keep working on my defense, keep working on my hitting,” said Alfaro, who was acquired from the Phillies in February in the J.T. Realmuto trade. “That’s just the only way, to keep working hard, and getting and better in every aspect of my game. That’s my mentality right now.”

What went right?
As advertised, Alfaro impressed with his athleticism and work ethic. He hit .262 in 2019, matching his batting average from 2018 with the Phillies.

Alfaro belted 18 home runs, third highest on the Marlins, and drove in 57 runs. When he made contact, he was impactful. His average exit velocity, per Statcast, was 90.8 mph, more than two mph higher than the MLB average. His arm strength ranks among the best in the sport. His averages on throws to second base was 88.2 mph, third highest among qualified catchers. His pop time on throws to second base averaged 1.94 seconds, eighth best among qualifiers.

“This guy plays hard,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “I love that about him. I think he’s got a good spirit as far as playing the game hard, running hard. He’s got a lot of things to like, but there are areas we’re going to ask him to grow in.”

What went wrong?
For starters, putting the ball in play. For all the power Alfaro possesses, his 33.1 percent strikeout rate is an issue. He also walked just 4.7 percent of the time. And after having a FanGraphs WAR, or fWAR, of 3.2, in 2018, that figure dropped to 1.3 Wins Above Replacement in 2019. He also swung at 50.4 percent of pitches out of the zone, per FanGraphs.

Defensively, in framing pitches for strikes, he lagged. According to Statcast, Alfaro had a 47.2 percent strike rate (called strikes on pitches in non-swing zones). San Diego’s Austin Hedges ranked first at 54.1 percent, and 22 qualified catchers ranked 50 percent or higher.

“There’s a lot of things I have to work on to get better,” Alfaro said. “Calling the games, and all that.”

Best moment?
On Sept. 23 at Citi Field, Alfaro achieved a personal first, connecting on a grand slam in the sixth inning off Mets left-hander Steven Matz. It was Alfaro’s first career grand slam, and his second home run of the game in Miami’s 8-4 victory on the road. Alfaro drove in five runs on the night, and the Marlins at the time moved the Mets to Wild Card elimination. In the second inning, Alfaro connected on a solo shot off Matz. It was the catcher’s second multi-home run game of the season, with the other coming on April 6 against the Braves.

“He’s getting the ball in the strike zone and trying to be more consistent with what he’s swinging at,” Mattingly said after the game.

2020 outlook
The Marlins have plenty of time to develop Alfaro, who will be arbitration-eligible in 2021 and a free agent in '24. So, he remains the front-runner to start heading into Spring Training. Still, there are holes in his game, and the Marlins this offseason are expected to explore catching depth. They will be looking for someone who is strong defensively, particularly in the framing department.

“I had some ups and downs during the season,” Alfaro said. “I have to make the adjustments and all that. I’ll keep working this offseason on getting better and better.”

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.