MLB.com Columnist

Bernie Pleskoff

# Rangers' Alfaro is an elite catching prospect

## Rangers' Alfaro is an elite catching prospect

I thought I was going to get to scout Texas Rangers catching prospect Jorge Alfaro at the 2013 All-Star Futures Game in New York back in July. He was on the roster of the World Team. Unfortunately, Alfaro had to miss that game due to a broken left hand he suffered three days after being named to the team.

At the time of the injury, Alfaro was hitting .263 with 11 home runs and 39 RBIs in 262 at-bats for Class A Hickory in the South Atlantic League.

It was a long wait, but I finally got to see Alfaro extensively in the Arizona Fall League, where he played extremely well for the Surprise Saguaros.

The Colombian-born Alfaro, who signed at the tender age of 16, played third base as well as catcher at the time he inked his pact. Alfaro is so versatile and such a good athlete that he has played first base and catcher during his career with the Rangers. But it is behind the plate where the right-handed-hitting Alfaro has the most upside.

In a system loaded with young talent, Alfaro sits atop MLB.com's list of the Rangers' Top 20 Prospects, and he is baseball's No. 4 overall catching prospect.

I have previously profiled outstanding AFL catchers Austin Hedges of the Padres and Andrew Susac of the Giants. They both hold great promise as backstops with the ability to hit. Alfaro, who won't turn 21 until June, joins them as a top defensive catching prospect who can also do damage with the bat.

If there is any room for pause regarding Alfaro, it is because of his build and frame. He is 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, but could stand to add more weight and overall strength -- especially if he plans to play in the heat and humidity of the Texas summer.

That said, Alfaro has the tools and athletic ability to become a high-average, power-hitting catcher with speed.

Alfaro's bat speed and quick hands translate well to a swing that has a slight uppercut. He gets good loft on the ball, and he profiles as a legitimate power threat who can become a middle-of-order game-changer.

Alfaro is still a bit raw and, at times, his youth shows. There are pitches he should drive that he misses and times he swings at offerings way out of the strike zone. But that's more rare than common.

In addition to his offensive skills, he has an absolute cannon for an arm. His throws have carry with accuracy. I timed Alfaro at 1.83 seconds from the time the ball hit his glove to the time the ball hit the glove of the second baseman. That should nail plenty of runners, provided his pitcher gives him a chance. Usually, anything less than 1.5 seconds from the pitcher on the mound to the catcher should be sufficient -- especially with a pop time like Alfaro has displayed.

Both Hedges and Susac were similar in their ability to throw out runners with quick releases and great carry on their throws.

Alfaro's combination of agility and cat-like quickness behind the plate allows him to easily block balls in the dirt. I didn't see him stab at balls -- a trait often prominent in younger catchers.

Alfaro's pitchers will also appreciate his abilities.

A take-charge type, Alfaro showed good leadership qualities while shepherding his pitchers through games. He showed an ability to frame pitches, moving his glove slightly and deftly to the strike zone to assist the umpire in ringing up strikes.

Alfaro will have a bit of work to do to show he can take the physical punishment an everyday catcher receives. But that should happen in time.

Alfaro's tools should come together like a symphony that becomes a sum of each individual instrument. His power, his overall hitting ability, his speed, his defense and his arm strength should mature and blend into a finely honed product with All-Star potential.

Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.