In the Greater Grand Rapids, Michigan, area, you're wrapping up a season in High-A ball when the call comes: You're headed to Erie, Pennsylvania, to finish your season in Double-A. The situation improves further as your team advances to the postseason. By season's end, not only are you part of a championship team, but your manager also highlights your clutch performance over those two weeks. This is the exact scenario that unfolded for Detroit Tigers prospect catcher Eliezer Alfonzo.
Alfonzo, who shares the same name as his father, who played in six MLB seasons with the Giants, Padres, Mariners, and Rockies, was trusted enough to handle the staff for Erie in the postseason after the SeaWolves lost Julio Rodriguez due to injury.
Alfonzo's ascent through the minor leagues has been consistent. He was among the final players from the Connecticut Tigers to make the New York-Penn League All-Star game in 2019, where he posted a .318 batting average with a .342 on-base percentage and a .374 slugging percentage. After the minor league's hiatus, Alfonzo returned in 2021, hitting .300 across stints with Lakeland and West Michigan. While not a power hitter – his isolated power (ISO) was just over .107 with the Whitecaps – he demonstrates keen plate discipline, striking out at approximately a 10% rate in 2023.
Alfonzo, known for his stocky build, which is typical of a catcher, is a switch hitter. In 2023, he showed more power, hitting right-handed and slamming eight home runs against right-handed pitchers. He also maintained a higher batting average from this side, hitting .269 compared to .253 against lefties. At the plate, Alfonzo positions the bat straight over his right shoulder, feet spread wide. A slight movement of his front foot leads to a compact swing, enabling him to consistently make solid contact with the ball.
In a November interview, Alfonzo reflected on the guidance he received from Jose Ovalles, a former Tigers coach in the Dominican Summer League and one-time catcher in the organization. He recalled telling Ovalles about his struggles batting left-handed and considering focusing solely on right-handed hitting. Ovalles advised him to persevere, assuring that with time, he would gain discipline and improve his left-handed swing. (Translated from Spanish)
Alfonzo has focused on honing his defensive skills. Known for his ability to effectively call games and frame pitches, his arm strength behind the plate is considered average. However, it's his batting prowess and receptiveness to coaching that have marked his progress at every level, positioning him as a strong candidate for the major leagues, possibly as a backup.
Prospect lists often highlight Jimenez and Josue Briceno, and justifiably so, given their impressive offensive performances relative to their age. Alfonzo, however, has consistently demonstrated his hitting abilities at each level. The key question this season is whether he can maintain this performance in Double-A. Should he succeed, it could pave the way for his inclusion on a major league roster.
Follow me on X at rogcastbaseball.