Phillies ready to let Jorge Alfaro take over the reins – again

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 18: Jorge Alfaro #38 of the Philadelphia Phillies hits a three run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning against the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park on September 18, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Phillies defeated the Mets 5-2. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 18: Jorge Alfaro #38 of the Philadelphia Phillies hits a three run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning against the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park on September 18, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Phillies defeated the Mets 5-2. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /
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The Phillies are ready to let Jorge Alfaro re-take the reins behind the plate after letting Wilson Ramos walk in free agency.

Jorge Alfaro opened the 2018 season as the Phillies starting catcher, with Andrew Knapp serving as his backup. However, with the pair not meeting expectations as the team was in the heat in the playoff race, they acquired Wilson Ramos from the Rays at the trade deadline to provide a spark behind the plate.

Ramos did just that, posting a .337/.396/.483 line and 136 wRc+ in 33 games. His performance during his short stint as a Phillie was enough to convince some that Ramos should be re-signed to pair with Alfaro for the next few years.

Alas, that did not happen as Ramos reportedly agreed to a two-year contract with the division rival Mets. Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports wrote that Philadelphia never heavily pursued re-signing Ramos this offseason.

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With Ramos gone and no other acquisitions of a catcher in sight, it appears Philadelphia is ready to hand the reins back to Alfaro behind the plate. The hope is that he can continue to make strides in his second full major-league season.

A key area of improvement for Alfaro will be his defense. He led National League catchers in errors and passed balls last season.

Alfaro had a mixed bag of results in the running game, catching the third-most runners while allowing the most stolen bases among NL catchers. His 26% caught stealing rate was slightly below average despite his cannon arm and strong pop time.

Alfaro shined behind the plate when it came to his pitch framing. He finished fifth among all catchers in framing runs, Baseball Prospectus’ measure of how effective a catcher is in getting borderline pitches called strikes. This was a major point of emphasis last offseason; if Alfaro can show strides in pitch framing, it shows he can make improvements in other aspects as well.

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Looking at his offense, Alfaro did okay considering everything he else he had to work on. His 96 wRC+ was 13th out of 27 catchers with 300 or more plate appearances in 2018. Strikeouts were a major issue as he struck out in 36.6% of his plate appearances, but the hope is that he can cut down on them.

Turning from Alfaro to Knapp, there is less to be optimistic about. He finished the season with a .198/.294/.316 line, 64 OPS+, and -0.3 Baseball-Reference wins above replacement. Knapp struggled defensively as well, catching just 18% of potential base stealers and committing eight errors, fifth-most among NL catchers.

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By letting Ramos walk – and never really showing much interest in having him return – the Phils made it clear they believe in Alfaro as the long-term option behind the plate. The team and fanbase are both hoping can build what was a promising rookie season.