It's no secret that Jorge Alfaro has a strong arm.The 23-year-old catcher is MLB Pipeline.com's No. 72 prospect -- and the Phillies' No. 3 prospect -- in part because of his throwing ability from behind the plate. And Alfaro put that on display on Saturday afternoon, as Colombia defeated Canada,
It's no secret that Jorge Alfaro has a strong arm.
The 23-year-old catcher is MLB Pipeline.com's No. 72 prospect -- and the Phillies' No. 3 prospect -- in part because of his throwing ability from behind the plate. And Alfaro put that on display on Saturday afternoon, as Colombia defeated Canada, 4-1, in the first round of the World Baseball Classic at Marlins Park.
Twice, a Canada baserunner tested Alfaro. Fortunately, Statcast™ was there to offer an inside look.
In the bottom of the first inning, with runners at the corners and one out, Freddie Freeman broke for second against Colombia right-hander Julio Teheran, on a 92.7-mph pitch to Tyler O'Neill. Freeman isn't known for his speed, with only 19 career steals in the Majors, but got a solid secondary lead of 24 feet, compared with an MLB average of 23 feet on successful steals.
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Alfaro unleashed an accurate, 85.5-mph throw to second that arrived in time to nab Freeman. To put that velocity in context, Gary Sanchez, Christian Bethancourt, Martin Maldonado, J.T. Realmuto, Evan Gattis and the Phillies' own Cameron Rupp were the only catchers to throw the ball harder on a caught stealing in 2016.
Canada tried again in the sixth, on an 88.1-mph pitch by Yohan Pino. But this time the runner on first was Dalton Pompey, who has stolen as many as 43 bases in a Minor League season. Pompey got a similar 24-foot secondary lead but used his speed to narrowly beat Alfaro's 84.6-mph throw -- which went right to the second baseman -- with a headfirst slide that left him shaken up afterward.
While this throw was a bit slower than the first, it still would have ranked among the 100 fastest recorded on an attempted steal of second base in 2016. Meanwhile, the MLB average on caught stealings at second was 80.1 mph.
Alfaro's pop times -- tracked from when he received the ball to when his throw arrived at its target -- were 1.98 and 1.97 seconds, respectively. That's about average for throws to second, and while arm strength is only one piece of the puzzle in throwing out runners, Alfaro's powerful arm can make up for quite a bit.
"One thing he's got going for him is his arm strength," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said earlier in Spring Training. "He doesn't have to worry about being extremely quick with his release, his transfer, because he makes up for it with his arm."
Alfaro, who made his MLB debut by getting into six games late last season, had only one competitive throw tracked by Statcast™ in 2016. That came on a wild pitch against Miami on Sept. 18, when Alfaro threw from a standing position instead of coming out of a crouch, helping him whip an 89.4-mph throw to second.
Phillies fans (and Statcast™) might be seeing a lot more of Alfaro soon as he tries to establish himself as the club's catcher of the future, but Saturday's action provided an intriguing sneak preview.
The World Baseball Classic runs through March 22. In the U.S., games air live exclusively in English on MLB Network and on an authenticated basis via MLBNetwork.com/watch, while ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN provide the exclusive Spanish-language coverage. MLB.TV Premium subscribers in the U.S. have access to watch every tournament game live on any of the streaming service's 400-plus supported devices. The tournament is being distributed internationally across all forms of television, internet, mobile and radio in territories excluding the U.S., Puerto Rico and Japan. Get tickets for games at Marlins Park, Tokyo Dome, Estadio Charros de Jalisco in Mexico, Petco Park, as well as the Championship Round at Dodger Stadium, while complete coverage -- including schedules, video, stats and gear -- is available at WorldBaseballClassic.com.
Andrew Simon is a research analyst for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.