“The Lion”, Miami Marlins new catcher, is glad to be closer to home
When you watch what Jorge Alfaro did in the fifth inning Tuesday, when he effortlessly belted a fastball just above the strike zone for a 357-foot home run over the right-field fence at Progressive Field against the Cleveland Indians, you remember just how much raw power the Miami Marlins catcher has at the plate.
“I just tried to get a pitch that I could make contact with,” Alfaro said. “I wasn’t looking for anything in particular. I just got one that I liked right away.”
And when you watch what Alfaro did in three of his other seven plate appearances during the two-game series split against the Indians, walking back to the dugout after strikeouts, you realize that his overall approach still needs a lot of fine-tuning.
Alfaro has had that feast-or-famine approach all season, and it has the 25-year-old among league leaders in contrasting categories heading into Thursday’s series opener against the Philadelphia Phillies — Alfaro’s first time back at Citizens Bank Park since being sent to the Marlins as part of the J.T. Realmuto trade in February.
The good: Alfaro can rip a baseball. He ranks fourth among all MLB players who have put at least 25 balls in play with a 59.4 percent hard-hit rate, defined by Statcast as a batted ball with an exit velocity of at least 95 mph. Brian Anderson is second on the Marlins and 60th in MLB at 46.6 percent. He leads the club with four home runs, all of which have come to opposite field.
The bad: Well, let’s look at those strikeout stats. Alfaro has struck out 26 times in 65 plate appearances, a 41-percent strikeout rate. He’s also swinging at 52.5 percent of the pitches he faces that are outside of the strike zone and has failed to make contact on 41.8 percent of his swings overall this season.
He has just two walks this year.
This isn’t a new phenomenon for Alfaro. He walked just 18 times while striking out 138 times in 377 plate appearances last season with the Phillies, becoming the first player in major league history to whiff so much and walk so little in fewer than 400 plate appearances.
“I think his approach is the main thing with him,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “He’s a guy that has huge power and I want him to use that. I think his swing works better when he stays in the middle of the field. Even when he catches one late, he still has power down the line. Obviously there’s some chase in there and we think some of the chase is that he just gets anxious and maybe the approach gets off a little bit, but again we think he’s a guy that’s growing in the right direction. ... He’s a guy who’s not afraid of the ball. There’s no give at the plate. There’s no fear with him.”
The Marlins are expecting a decent amount of production out of Alfaro, one of the team’s few players who can hit for power.
But Alfaro isn’t trying to put too much pressure on himself at the plate or the rest of the team despite the fact that the Marlins are hitting just .215 as a team — the fourth-lowest mark in the majors.
“We’re trying to compete,” Alfaro said. “We’re trying to go out and fight every game.”