The Phillies sent Jorge Alfaro back to Double-A Reading at the start of last season after he missed a significant amount of time in 2015 with an ankle injury. Alfaro was able to stay mostly healthy (outside of an oblique issue) and put together a solid season. Like many of the hitters playing for Reading, Alfaro's overall stat line was buoyed by his hitter-friendly home park. He hit .318 with nine home runs and an .855 OPS in 211 at-bats at home, but just .249 with six home runs and a .705 OPS in 193 at-bats on the road. He also struggled against lefties, hitting just .213 with one homer and a .585 OPS in 80 at-bats last season. The Phillies gave Alfaro a cup of coffee in September, but he doesn't appear to be part of their plans behind the plate in 2017. He needs more time in the minors to continue to refine his offensive game.
Alfaro was optioned to minor league camp Friday. Arguably fantasy's best catcher prospect for 2017, the 23-year-old peppered pitchers at Double-A Reading last year (.285/.325/.458 with 15 home runs and 67 RBI in 435 plate appearances). Alfaro probably has nothing left to prove at Double-A and could start the season with Triple-A Lehigh Valley in short order. Expect to see him in the majors sometime this summer with hopes of a better result than his 16 at-bat MLB debut in 2016, during which he struck out eight times.
Alfaro will leave the Phillies this week to join Columbia for the World Baseball Classic, Paul Hagen of MLB.com reports. Alfaro had two hits in eight at-bats this spring. He got his first taste of the majors last season, but he isn't in the mix for a roster spot this spring. The Phillies want Alfaro to get some additional development time at Triple-A this season, and he will likely be the starting catcher for Team Columbia in the WBC.
Alfaro is in the starting lineup Tuesday against the Pirates, Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Enquirer reports. The day after tallying his first major league hit, the heralded catching prospect will make his first big league start behind the plate. Alfaro will bat eighth in the lineup as he bumps Cameron Rupp and A.J. Ellis to the bench.
Manager Pete Mackanin said Monday that Alfaro will get "6-to-8" starts behind the plate before the regular season ends, Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Voice reports. Alfaro hasn't played an inning above Double-A, but the Phillies are gearing toward the future and want to see what the young backstop has to offer. The 23-year-old drilled 15 home runs and 21 doubles this season at Double-A Reading, but the sporadic playing time could limit his upside for the short-term even if his bat translates to the big leagues.
Alfaro was recalled from Double-A Reading on Sunday. Alfaro was briefly with the big club earlier in the year, but didn't play during his short stint. He's been great with Reading recently, having gone 16-for-44 (.364) with four home runs over his last 10 games, bringing his line up to .285/.325/.458 for the year.