READING, Pa. - Despite missing three weeks with an oblique injury, Jorge Alfaro seems to have picked up right where he left off in the Phillies' farm system. That's dominating at Double A, where he's already collected one Eastern League Player of the Week award this season.
In only his third game since returning to the lineup, Alfaro was 3 for 4 with a double, an RBI and the go-ahead run in a 5-3 Reading victory on Monday. Incredibly, it was the catcher's eighth multi-hit game of 2016 out of the 11 he's played.
It took a few at-bats for Alfaro to find his groove again - he went 1 for 7 in his first two games back, including his first hitless game of the season. However, he doesn't appear to have needed very long to get his swing back.
"He's come back and hasn't missed much for being out that many days," Reading manager Dusty Wathan said. "He worked hard. He worked hard at being ready, and to his credit for him, I think it'll pay off for him. It is right now."
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Paying off, indeed. It's been only 11 games, but even for such a short period of time Alfaro's numbers are, for lack of a better word, insane. The Colombia native is batting .468, and his average, on-base percentage (.490), slugging percentage (.702) and OPS (1.192) would all be tops in the Eastern League by a wide margin if he had enough plate appearances to qualify.
The Phillies knew they were getting one of the top prospects in baseball in Alfaro when they traded Cole Hamels to the Texas Rangers last summer, but they had to wait and see. The 22-year-old sat out most of the season with an ankle injury and didn't wind up arriving in Reading until this year.
Thus far, he's been well worth the wait.
"It's been real impressive," Wathan said of Alfaro's performance thus far. "The guy's got all kinds of tools. He's really short with his swing, I think shorter than I imagined really, even shorter than he was at the beginning of spring training, really concentrating on shortening his swing."
In 2015, Alfaro hit .253 with 15 doubles, five home runs and 22 RBIs in 49 games at Double A in the Texas League. He also struck out 61 times.
This season, despite playing in roughly one-fifth of the games, Alfaro already has 22 hits, six doubles, a home run and 12 RBIs. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound right-hander has also been making more consistent contact, limiting his strikeouts to eight.
"There's plenty of power there," Wathan said. "I think in the past, like most young hitters, there's too many strikeouts, and I haven't seen that this year.
"He's made some good adjustments. I don't know exactly what his numbers were in the past, but I know a lot of times young hitters have too many strikeouts, and they need to learn their strike zone, learn their swing. I've been impressed with him."
Alfaro has to come back down to Earth eventually. Perhaps what's most promising about his start to this season isn't the way he's raking, but the resilience, preparation and work ethic he's demonstrated in returning from injuries.
The next step, ideally, would be if Alfaro could simply stay healthy. If he can just do that, his bat might take care of the rest.