Buy ‘Em or Deny ‘Em: Will Jorge Alfaro Fully Breakout In 2020? Don’t Be So Quick To Assume…

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There were high expectations for Jorge Alfaro, after he was one of the centerpieces of the trade that sent J.T. Realmuto to Philadelphia. Maybe he didn’t produce quite as well as hoped, but you also can’t call him a disappointment. At the end of the day the numbers were solid, albeit unspectacular:

.262 (113-431), 18 HR, 57 RBI and 44 R

The question quickly becomes whether or not he can even come remotely close to replicating that production on any level. Before we get into the specifics, looking back at our scouting report prior to 2018 is extremely telling:

You could argue that Alfaro has as much upside as anyone at the position, though he’s struggled to fully tap into it thanks to his aggressive approach.  That was on display at Triple-A last season, with a 16.1% SwStr% helping lead to a 32.3% strikeout rate and .241 average over 350 PA (and he was further exposed in the Majors, with a 21.5% SwStr% and 46.2% O-Swing% over 114 PA).  He needs to learn to cut the strikeouts down in order to tap into his raw power, which is there and waiting.  He also showed a bit too many groundballs, at 52.2%, given his lack of speed further limiting him.

Still 24-years old (he’ll turn 25 in June), there’s still time for him to develop.  The time is now, though, or he could quickly fall to a “B-“ or “C+” grade as the strikeouts will keep him from reaching his ultimate ceiling.  We can’t ignore the upside, but proceed with caution.

Two years since we wrote that scouting report, and 842 PA in the Majors later, exactly what has changed? The answer is not much…

Home Runs

Two years ago we talked about an inflated groundball rate as something that could ultimately limit his power potential. While he did hit 18 HR last season, a 52.7% looms large when he’s playing half his games in Miami. Can he replicate the 25.4% HR/FB he posted in ’19? As it is we saw things fade in the second half:

  • First Half – 30.3%
  • Second Half – 21.1%

That led to 8 HR over 197 AB, and while it wasn’t a stark dropoff in terms of home runs it also can’t be ignored. If he continues to drive the ball into the ground, he’ll never fully tap into his upside.

Average

The decline in his power would play a role, as does his continued abysmal approach and strikeout issues:

  • Strikeout Rate – 33.1%
  • Walk Rate – 4.7%
  • SwStr% – 22.0%
  • O-Swing% – 50.4%

Can he continue to post a 43.7% Hard% when he’s chasing outside the strike zone this often? Can we expect a catcher to maintain a .364 BABIP? He struggled against all types of pitches, though he was particularly bad against breaking balls (30.00% Whiff%) and offspeed pitches (27.33% Whiff%). He could easily see more of them moving forward, and that could just further send him spiraling.

Is it possible that Alfaro figures it out and starts putting things together? Perhaps, but we wouldn’t bank on it. There’s questions about his power and significant questions about his average. Unless something changes even the numbers he showed last season will be unobtainable. While they help to camouflage the issues, he’s easily a player to avoid.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

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