At the end of 2018, after a lengthy and frustrating 63-98 season in Year 1 of an extensive rebuild, one of the lone bright spots for the Miami Marlins was catcher J.T. Realmuto. Brian Anderson did well as a rookie and there were a few promising performances here and there from rookie starting pitchers over the course of the season, but Realmuto emerged as a star.
Heralded early in his career solely for his athleticism and offensive skill set, Realmuto matured into a complete catcher. He was selected to the All-Star Game, a first for a Marlins backstop since Paul Lo Duca in 2005. After big-name players were traded away for prospects to kick-start the rebuild before the season began, Realmuto blossomed into an extremely productive and affordable player at a premium position (4.8 fWAR for a $2.9 million salary), and looked poised to become the new face of the franchise.
Then it began—the trade rumors, and the rumblings that J.T. wanted out of Miami. Even though the writing had been on the wall for months by the time the Phillies agreed to send top prospect Sixto Sánchez, catcher Jorge Alfaro, and minor league arm Will Stewart to the Fish for Realmuto, it didn't take away the sting of waving goodbye to another potential franchise cornerstone.
On the surface, Alfaro seemed to be a serviceable replacement, albeit a significant downgrade over J.T. There were concerns from the masses regarding his defense and strikeout rate. As the 2019 season has progressed, it has become clear that those concerns were not misplaced, and yet, the Marlins may just have another All-Star catcher in their midst.
Through 47 games, “El Oso” is batting .275 with 9 home runs, a .328 OBP and .461 slugging percentage. He’s exceeded Realmuto’s Philadelphia production in each of those categories.
It has not been all sunshine and rainbows for Alfaro, though. While these stats look great on paper, as advertised, he is striking out at an absurd rate (33.9%) and chasing out of the zone with 48.7% of his swings, the worst mark in Major League Baseball (min. 100 PA). He has allowed six passed balls already, not to mention the questionable pitch framing at times.
So no, this article is not to tell you that the Marlins now have a catcher that is just as good as, or even better than, J.T. Realmuto.
However, the sky is the limit for Alfaro, who is only in his second full season at the major league level, and is not even 26 years old (save the birthday cards and well-wishes for Tuesday). There is plenty of time for the Colombian to improve his game. For the time being, having such a talent on the roster at such an early stage of the rebuild is huge for the future success of the franchise.
In addition to what Alfaro provides on the field, he is also emerging as a team leader and is helping to create a positive culture within the clubhouse. He has completely bought into the process that the Marlins are going through, and is having fun while doing so:
This familia >>>> #JuntosMiami pic.twitter.com/cKIj0TULnY— Miami Marlins (@Marlins) June 6, 2019
Already a fan favorite in Miami, Jorge Alfaro looks to be a piece that the Marlins can build around. The next phase in his development may just include a date in Cleveland with the rest of baseball's elite, alongside—or instead of—the man he replaced.
You can give Jorge Alfaro (and other Marlins position players) an opportunity to start the All-Star Game by voting here.