Reflections on Bear | FanGraphs Baseball

Orlando Ramirez, USA Today Sports

Typically, a minor league free agent with a non-invitational invitation does not guarantee a freelancer article. But Jorge Alfarowho signed with the Red Sox on Monday, is not your average player.


First of all, the road to regular playing time is relatively easy for Alfaro. He will compete with him for minutes Connor Wong And Rhys McGuire. Wong did well in the minors but struggled with a major league test shortstop last year, with only a year left. McGuire has been solid defensively over the past two seasons, but his bat isn’t of the quality the Sox would move heaven and earth to keep him in the lineup. If Alvaro plays well in spring training, there is every reason to believe he will head north with the Red Sox and play regularly.

Alvaro’s contract indicates that much. If he makes the team, he’ll be paid $2 million, which is more than either McGuire or Wong will earn this season. He will also have two chances to withdraw – June 1 and July 1 – if he is not called up by then. Whether or not he’s a minor league free agent, Alvaro is aiming to play in the seniors this year.

The second reason why Alvaro is worth discussing: Well, he’s Jorge Alfaro.

When I first came to work at FanGraphs, I promised you, my readers, to give you the best stories based on experience that I could tell. I will break that promise now. to hell with the experimentalists; Alvaro’s is best enjoyed through the illuminations.

Alvaro will turn 30 this coming June, which is fitting. He’s one of those players who always looks like he’s 23, but he’s been around for a long time and he should be 37 now. Take the average of those two numbers, and there you go. In Baseball Prospectus, Alfaro has attained legendary status as a seven-time top 101 prospect, and it’s easy to see why. Gradually on the tools, he has a plus strength plus throwing arm plus. He also has one of baseball’s best nicknames – El Oso – not only because all the nicknames sound cooler in Spanish than in English, but also because “The Bear” pretty much evokes a big, hairy man who seems capable of feats of superhuman strength, then executes Superhuman feats of force on a baseball diamond. Also, we think of bears as big and strong but forget that an adult grizzly bear can run at speeds of up to 35 miles per hour. Alvaro, despite being a catcher who looks like he can ride a city bus, ranked at 85 percent for sprint speed last season.

Álvaro was so highly regarded as a young player that he formed the core of deals for both key players Cole Hamels and prime minister JT Realmoto. Over time, he faded into backup duty, so he didn’t play much. But when it does surface, the results tend to be viral moments, like this 449-foot bombshell. Cole Sulser Last season.

Or one of the first highlights of his career, that home run of the World Baseball Classic Fernando Rodney.

Watching Alvaro infuriates a man who abandons the oppressive limitations of modern baseball. Nowadays, ball players are required to play percentages. Sometimes those percentages dictate the risk: throw as hard as you can, literally swinging for the fences. But the math backs it all up. Alvaro lives outside of those conventions. He charges boldly and gets his money, make it or lose it.

We know athletes like this in other sports – people who have special physical talents or unusual skills but who care little about tactical wisdom. They excite us by pushing the creative boundaries of their games and frustrate us by constantly chasing transcendence even when the mundane is good enough. Jason Williams. Ricardo Quaresma. Mario Balotelli. These players may not achieve as much as they could, but they become cult heroes because deep down we all know that playing by the rules is boring.

The structure that makes baseball so easy propels the game into compliance. Even more so than soccer, which resets play by play but leaves the entire physical play space open to manipulation. Alvaro is as close as baseball can get to a eccentric Nick Young type. And his skills, his talents, have not diminished. Strength, throwing arm, speed and power – it all remains undiminished. This is a 29-year-old with extraordinary abilities, some of which border on literally unique to a catcher, that translate to both sides of the ball. Sure, he gets out a lot and doesn’t walk much, BUT Mike Zunino You get $6 million guaranteed this year. Austin Hedges You get 5 million dollars. They both play for teams that would demolish a section of the stands and use it to dispose of nuclear waste if they thought it would save them a few dollars.

Alvaro is not just a circus act. He was a producer. It’s not far from the 2018 season that he graduated as a plus and was worth a 3.2 WAR in just 377 plate appearances. How is it available to invite non-list members with a maximum of $2 million attached? Not only that, how could the home run serial hitter not come off the bench in last year’s playoffs when Austin how (1-for-19 in the NLCS) Was in a slump?

Unfortunately, the explanation lies in the experiences. At his peak, Álvaro was faster than Christian Patch And Cedric Mullins. The most hit ball in 2022 came in (or more accurately went out) at 115.2 mph, harder than anything hit Mike TroutAnd Kyle Schwarberor Joey Gallo in 2022. And he can play the toughest defensive position in the sport.

How could this guy not be a rookie, let alone a superstar?

The most useful way to ask this question is: How does the batter with the worst contact numbers and discipline plate in baseball turn into a player above replacement level? Now, “the worst calling numbers and plate discipline in baseball” is a superlative, which usually indicates some kind of exaggeration. But if I’m exaggerating, it’s not so much.

Jorge Alfaro, rocks it all

BB% K% swing % swinging % O-Contact % Contact%
Values 4.0 35.8 49.2 62.7 52.2 65.2
Rank* 334th VIII 2nd the first 322nd 346

At least 200 matches in 2022 (358 players)

Alvaro was the only player to hit 200 or more home runs in 2022 with a walk rate of 4% or less and a strike rate of 35% or higher. The Baseball Savant program records 531 hitters who have seen at least 50 pitches in the chase zone in 2022; Of these, Alfaro ranks 529th in running production and is one of only 11 to not break even. It lives off the heuristic of most of us because of “bad discipline.” No matter how many boundary pitches he sees, he’ll just keep swinging and missing each time.

Normally, I can’t stand to watch this kind of guy: the hacker who swings off his heels and refuses to work for the Count. But on the rare occasions that Alvaro does reach out, the results are amazing. And he has so many other things I can’t be forced to cross out; If he can tone down the hits a bit, or become more selective, there’s a star in the making here.

How, then, can we criticize Alvaro for eyeing something beyond his reach and chasing after it with all his might? Do you want to repeat the same flawed process over and over again if this time he’s going to stick around and reap the rewards? The Red Sox, like four other teams before them, are just doing the same thing.

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