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Launch angle the key for Jorge Alfaro’s 2020 success

Having a slightly uppercut swing could be what Jorge Alfaro needs to do to increase his home runs.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone knows what kind of power Jorge Alfaro has. Not for nothing, he just smacked 18 balls out of the park—eight more than 2018—and he had the fourth-highest hard-hit rate among National League catchers with at least 250 plate appearances, according to FanGraphs. Jorge recorded 14 doubles, one triple, and 18 home runs, plus 57 runs batted in and a .425 slugging percentage.

But it seems the Colombia native is not taking full advantage of his enormous raw power. More than half of the balls put in play by Alfaro in 2019 (52.7%) were hit on the ground, resulting in a .276 average and only two extra-bases (two doubles). Although he’ll pick up occasional infield singles thanks to blazing speed, there’s the potential for him to have a greater impact on the Marlins offense.

Alfaro’s 4.7º launch angle was well below MLB average (11.5º) and was the seventh-worst in the big leagues (250 PA minimum). Usually, the sweet spot for extra-bases is between 10º and 30º.

Just as a reference, let’s compare the 10 highest launch angles in the MLB (250 PA minimum) and see how many homers every ballplayer of this group hit this season:

Nearly all of them hit more four-baggers than Alfaro, with Hernández and Belt each falling just one short of his total.

The Marlins have to upgrade their lineup after scoring the fewest runs in the National League last season. Some of that improvement can come internally if Alfaro makes this adjustment. When “El Oso” put the ball in the air (fly balls and line drives), his average was a high .584 (73-for-125). Miami needs him to do that more often!

Speaking of that, Alfaro’s HR/FB was at 25.4. That means he hit one home run every four fly balls. Among qualified players, there were only 13 with a higher rate in the majors.

The Marlins might still look to free agency to address their backup catcher situation, but with Yasmani Grandal (White Sox) and Travis d’Arnaud (Braves) coming off the market last week, Alfaro is locked in as their primary option at that position. Fans should be optimistic about that, because he could emerge as a premier power-hitting catcher by slightly altering his swing.