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Alfaro plays key role in Saguaros' championship win

Rangers' top prospect throws out two and drives in run to help clinch title @JimCallisMLB

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Catchers have the most demanding job on the diamond. They handle every pitch and take physical punishment, all the while expected to contribute at the plate and hold basestealers at bay.

Jorge Alfaro, the Rangers' top prospect, contributed in all phases of the game Saturday at Scottsdale Stadium. As a result, the Surprise Saguaros won the Arizona Fall League championship, 2-0, over the Mesa Solar Sox.

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"This is so surreal," Alfaro said through a translator, Red Sox left-hander Miguel Pena. "I'm still soaking it in. I've never been a part of a championship team."

Alfaro provided the only run the Saguaros would need when he singled in O's outfielder Henry Urrutia in the bottom of the second against Cubs prospect Dallas Beeler. He snuffed out Solar Sox uprisings in the second and fourth innings by throwing out Nats prospect Steven Souza and Devon Travis, the Tigers' No. 12 prospect, on steal attempts at second base. Neither play was especially close.

Alfaro also nursed Surprise reliever Tim Berry, the O's No. 6 prospect, through a difficult sixth inning. With one out, Berry walked Angels prospect Jett Bandy and gave up a single to A's top prospect Addison Russell, then fumbled a Travis grounder to load the bases. Next up were league MVP Kris Bryant and AFL batting champion C.J. Cron, who is ranked as the Angels' No. 2 prospect.

Berry fell behind 2-0 to Bryant, prompting a conference at the mound with Alfaro and pitching coach Steve Karsay. Berry got Bryant to foul out on an inside fastball on the next pitch, then struck out Cron to end the threat. Mesa managed only one more baserunner during the final three innings.

"I really needed to make sure Berry and I were on the same page," Alfaro said. "That really goes back to the mental side of the game. With the bases loaded and one out, that's a moment to show what we're really made of. I felt very proud. Those next two batters were a difference-maker."

Signed for $1.3 million in January 2010 -- still a record for a Colombian prospect -- Alfaro has as high a ceiling as any catcher in the Minor Leagues. Both his right-handed raw power and arm strength qualify as well above-average tools, though at age 20 he's still polishing his hitting and receiving skills.

Alfaro hit .265/.346/.463 this season in the Minors, mostly at low Class A Hickory, and threw out 31 percent of basestealers. He thrived in Arizona, finishing second in batting (.386) and throwing out basestealers (50 percent).

"He's got a tremendous throwing arm," Saguaros manager Gary Kendall said. "He's got a well above-average throwing arm that's accurate. He's got real good catching skills and he's developed into quite a leader back there.

"He made really good mound visits today. Sometimes that goes unnoticed, but when a catcher can go out there and settle down a pitcher without a pitching coach, because that burns a visit, that shows maturity. I thought all of them were good times to go out there."

Alfaro won't get much rest this offseason, as he'll take just a week off before beginning play in the Colombian winter league. That season runs through January, and he'll likely report to Spring Training the following month.

"I'm not really tired," Alfaro said. "I just want to keep playing and learning more and more."

Jim Callis is a reporter for and writes a blog, Callis' Corner. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter.

Jorge Alfaro