Jorge Alfaro captured the hearts of the Friar Faithful in 2022.
After the San Diego Padres acquired the journeyman catcher from the Miami Marlins for cash considerations, baseball went into a lockout, and Alfaro needed to wait for spring training to make an impression on the Padres staff amid a crowded catching room.
At 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, Alfaro showed up to camp on a mission and a massive head of hair. His early performances led to Padres general manager A.J. Preller trading away Victor Caratini, clearing the way for Alfaro to back up Austin Nola.
Alfaro had a flair for the dramatic, getting four walk-off hits and a walk-off walk in just 82 games. After his second walk-off, Alfaro lost control of himself while being interviewed and exclaimed “Let’s f***ing go, San Diego,” into a live mic. He also walked out to Vincente Fernandez classics “Volver, Volver” and “El Rey,” which made him a hit amongst the Latin-American Padres fans and more.
— Bally Sports San Diego (@BallySportsSD) September 8, 2022
While Alfaro became one of the more likable Padres, it became evident how little the Padres trust him with his lack of playing time down the stretch in September and zero appearances in the playoffs.
Entering his final year of arbitration, Alfaro is due a pay raise of 2.73 million dollar 2022 salary.
One of the questions Preller and the rest of the front office will be asking themselves is if Alfaro will be worth the raise.
His 94 OPS+ and 90 WRC+ suggest that he is a slightly below league-average hitter. His 98 strikeouts in 256 at-bats while walking just 11 times suggest he is worse than average.
When Alfaro does put the ball in play, it is often with authority. The average exit velocity on his batted balls was 89.4 MPH, which is above the league average of 87 MPH. These hard-hit balls often led to extra-base hits, getting 14 doubles and seven home runs out of his 63 total hits.
Behind the plate is where Alfaro struggles. Thirty base runners attempted to steal while Alfaro was catching. He caught just five of them, which is alarming considering his rocket arm. Now, that’s not all his fault, but it can’t go unnoticed since that’s considered his defensive strength.
— James E. Clark 3 (@EVT_JClark) May 8, 2022
Framing, which is considered to be one of the more important aspects of catching, considering the level of pitching is at an all-time high, used to also be a strength of Alfaro’s. According to FanGraphs, Alfaro had a -3.7 FRM(catching framing rating).
Worst of all, results from the Padres starting pitchers do not favor Alfaro at all.
Yu Darvish, San Diego’s most consistent starter from 2022, never pitched to Alfaro. Joe Musgrove, who only trailed Darvish in terms of consistency, pitched to Alfaro once and allowed four runs in 4.1 innings.
Clevinger primarily pitched to Nola, and the results were impressive: a 3.55 ERA in 91.1 innings. In four games pitching to Alfaro, Clevinger owned a 6.63 ERA.
Manaea experienced the least successful season of his career in 2022. He almost exclusively pitched to Alfaro, with a 4.69 ERA in 128.2 innings as a pair. However, Manaea excelled in his three starts pitching to Nola, boasting just a 2.81 ERA.
Snell is possibly the best litmus test here, pitching to both catchers at least ten times. Alfaro tended to catch Snell in the first half of the season, most notably when Snell struggled. In 14 starts together, Snell had a 4.00 ERA pitching to Alfaro. Snell started to get more comfortable pitching in the second half of the season, as that battery resulted in a 2.57 ERA.
Alfaro is the backup catcher for the Padres and would likely be for any of the other 29 MLB teams. His presence is also a positive in the clubhouse and the fans love him. With Luis Campusano is waiting in the wings for his opportunity at emerging as a catcher for the big league club. It might upset some fans, but it may be best for the Padres to non-tender Alfaro instead of giving him a pay raise. They’ll have until November 18 to make a decision.