Last season, catching prospect Jorge Alfaro went on a wild ride.
After being traded to the Phillies organization as part of the Cole Hamels trade to the Rangers in 2015, Alfaro started the season in Double-A Reading where he tore minor league pitching apart (he started the season hitting .500, 18-for-36) — winning the minor league player of the month award before suffering a minor injury midseason.
He hit .285 and flashed a little power with 15 homers and 67 RBI for the Fightins' and was called up for six games with the Phillies last August. Both Alfaro and the Phillies hope it was just the start of a long big league career.
"I won't want to go back down there," the Colombian said. "Nobody wants that. My motivation is a dream that I had when I was a little kid. I come from a town that doesn't have that much baseball. I think that's what motivates me every day when I get to the field and do my job, do my work and keep working hard for what I want."
Alfaro was named the best defensive catcher in the minors by Baseball America and was lucky enough to learn and develop, however briefly, with Carlos Ruiz as a mentor before the Phils' World Series winning catcher was traded to the Dodgers.
"I talk to Carlos [Ruiz] a lot," Alfaro said. "We didn't have a lot of time together but when I did have the chance I tried to ask him a lot about his career. You can tell whenever you talk to him that he really wants to help you.
"People like Andres Blanco, Freddy Galvis, Ryan Howard — and even the young guys they have really good advice. Whenever I ask a question they give good answers that help me a lot to learn."
The Phillies have just three catchers on their 40-man roster. Cameron Rupp will surely start the season as the opening day catcher, but the Phils are hoping he eventually becomes the back up to Alfaro, who will try and make the team in spring training. Andrew Knapp is the other catcher on Philadelphia's roster.
With little competition and high expectations (Alfaro has been a top 100 prospect for over three years niw), the 23-year-old could be feeling the pressure. But he somehow find a way to maintain an even keel.
"I don't really pay attention to that," Alfaro said. "Whenever I get to the field I keep doing what I'm doing. I hustle and give 100 percent in practice every day. I don't try and put pressure on myself. I come to the field and do my job. I get ready for the game."