Red Sox minor league spotlight: Jorge Alfaro making a name for himself in Worcester
If you had to pick two words to describe Jorge Alfaro it would be "gentle giant". His locker at Polar Park sits in the back left corner. He can see and hear everything, while also having the benefit of being away from the center of attention if he wants to be.
His nickname, "El Oso" (the bear), suits him perfectly - both in stature, and in his mannerisms. Alfaro is not afraid to be an imposing figure - whether it's walking down the hall from picking up a Gatorade, taking batting practice in the indoor tunnel, or just simply walking past you into the dugout after warming up before a game.
His height of six-foot-three is not much smaller than big league first baseman Triston Casas, who stands at six-foot-four, he carries himself in a way that is comparable to Casas. He's not afraid of anyone, and was built to be a tough-guy catcher. He shakes your hand with a softer handshake than Jarren Duran would, but strong enough to know that you don't want to mess with him.
In the same breath, you could find him being one of the most friendly people in the clubhouse with his infectious smile stretching from ear-to-ear or just playing reggaeton music in the clubhouse so loud you can barely hear yourself think.
They say in Boston, you should never poke the bear. Usually that term refers to the Boston Bruins, but in the case of Alfaro, it seems the term should apply outside of hockey as well.
For Alfaro, last season was a success. He made it to the playoffs, and even came close to the World Series. However, after falling short to a streaking Philadelphia Phillies squad, he came to a career crossroads. He could play overseas, test free agency, or attempt to stay with the San Diego Padres who already had a solid right-handed hitting catcher in Austin Nola.
After he was non-tendered by the Padres, Alfaro decided he would spend the winter in the Dominican Republic playing in the Dominican Winter League, hoping to enhance his appeal to any free agency suitors, and on January 18 his hard work paid off when he signed a minor league deal with the Red Sox that included an invitation to spring training.
The catch, however, was that the minor league deal did not come with a spot on the 40-man roster. That was something that he would have to earn. After all, Boston already had two catchers on their active roster in Reese McGuire, and Connor Wong.
Unfortunately for Alfaro, Wong broke camp with the big club, and was announced as the initial back-up to McGuire when Alfaro was sent to Triple-A Worcester along with infielder Bobby Dalbec to start the season.
When he was asked about the move early on in the season, Alfaro said the move was not a big deal, but since then he has made the most of it to say the least, going on an all-out tear. In the WooSox first 20 games, Alfaro played in 16 of them - reaching base in all of them, and collecting at least one hit in all, but one, and even had a 14-game hitting streak.
Throughout that stretch, he also collected 10 RBI, four doubles, and a triple. He even stole four bases.
Worcester manager Chad Tracy has said that he is expected to get a lot of action while down with the WooSox - some will be behind the plate, other days as the designated hitter. Tracy described Alfaro as an aggressive hitter, and one that will go after a pitch early if he likes it.
Why Red Sox should give Jorge Alfaro a chance
The first reason the Red Sox need to give Alfaro a chance is his major league experience. Wong and McGuire have just under six years of major league experience between the two of them, which pales in comparison to Alfaro's almost seven by himself.
If Boston were to elevate him to the big leagues, it would give them a catcher who has real experience against major league pitching, and someone who has an offensive potential as well.
Throughout the season, catching has been a position of question marks for Boston, especially offensively, and big league experience-wise. The lack of big league experience has caused some defensive issues such as base runners running all over the team's catchers.
In fact, the first 10 stolen base attempts against Red Sox were successful to start the season. Since then, they have been better.
In order for him to be called up, however, he would have to replace someone on the 40-man roster. The question is: who?