Alfaro makes first start in LF for Marlins

August 3rd, 2021

MIAMI -- The Marlins started in left field for the first time in his career on Tuesday night against the Mets at loanDepot park, and it might be a recurring sight moving forward.

The way general manager Kim Ng explained it, this will help keep Alfaro's bat in the lineup and add to his resume. Plus, the market over the past few years showed that clubs deemed players with positional versatility as valuable. Alfaro has two more years of arbitration eligibility.

"With Jorge's athleticism, the ability to hit for power, he's got speed on the basepaths -- we saw that the other night when he stretched a double into a triple -- we just thought it was a real plus for him as well as for the club," Ng said.

Alfaro, the club's primary catcher since being acquired in the J.T. Realmuto trade in 2019, had previously appeared in the outfield twice: for one inning in left field on May 27 and for three innings in right on Sept. 9, 2020. This experiment is made possible by the club carrying three backstops after the Marlins acquired Alex Jackson from the Braves prior to Friday's Trade Deadline. He has started two straight games; veteran Sandy León also is on the roster.

According to FanGraphs, Alfaro has -6 defensive runs saved, and he also has an MLB-high 12 passed balls. He is in the 56th percentile when it comes to framing, per Statcast. Ng said Alfaro will split time at various positions. Acting manager James Rowson added that besides left and right field, Alfaro could also see reps at the corner-infield spots.

"Jorgie is a unique player," Rowson said. "It's very rare you find a guy that's that athletic and can play so many places on the field, especially catchers. Generally, you think catchers are only going to catch, but this is a guy who's athletic enough -- we've seen him run, so you know what he can do on the bases. He can run, he can throw, he has power. There's so many things he does that really profiles across many positions, so this gives him an opportunity to show that and go out there and show he can play different positions and show how valuable a player he can be to any team."

Here's a look at the Statcast figures to back that claim:

Six of the nine hardest catcher throws that have resulted in a caught-stealing this season belong to Alfaro, including a season-high 90.5 mph throw vs. the Yankees on Friday.

His 28.0 ft./sec. sprint speed is above average (27 ft./sec.) regardless of position and ranks second among MLB catchers.

• His 91.3 mph average exit velocity ranks fifth among MLB catchers (min. 100 BBE).
• His 115.7 mph max exit velo is in the top 3 percentile of MLB regardless of position.

The 28-year-old Alfaro, who was surprised when first told of the change, was going through drills with coach Keith Johnson prior to batting practice on Monday. Rowson believes this will help alleviate the stress on Alfaro's legs and give him more time to prepare on offense. Catchers have to set aside substantial time game planning with the pitching staff.

"I feel confident with myself, got faith everything is going to be good," Alfaro said. "I believe in myself, so I'm going to go out there to compete, to give my 100 percent to each one of my teammates and just bring a good attitude. Try to help the team on whatever I can."