Currently ranked the number one prospect in the Mets organization and the number one prospect in baseball by a number of scouting organizations, Francisco Alvarez is on the very cusp of his major league career. The Mets brought him up to play in a small handful of games at the end of the season to attempt to catch lightning in a bottle with regard to the lack of production from Darin Ruf and the MLB learning curve of Mark Vientos. This was a tough minority role with the majority of the DH duties covered by Daniel Vogelbach.
While he remained on the major league roster through the Wild Card round, Buck Showalter never felt comfortable bringing Alvarez into a game despite having a lack of production from Tomas Nido and a start from Ruf. Being at the game on 10/9 and seeing the complete and utter lack of Met offense it was infuriating to think that the Mets had a bullet in the chamber that would go unspent. Yet, the season is now over and we’ll never know what might have been.
The Mets are hoping that Alvarez will soon (next year) be ready to take over the starting catching duties for the beleaguered pair of Nido and James McCann. Unfortunately, for the Mets, McCann is signed through the 2023 season and has already fallen in the depth charts behind the light hitting Nido. This means that the Mets are actually faced with a tough decision on Nido’s arbitration as, even as cheap as he’ll be, the Mets don’t need two backup backstops.
At 5’10” and 233 Lbs Francisco Alvarez doesn’t look like an Aaron Judge style adonis. He’s a “stocky” catcher with a low center of gravity. If you’ve seen Alvarez hit and play, you’ll note that he uses his physicality to good effect both behind the plate and when hitting. Anyone who watched the replay of his first major league home run could see the raw power he has. Still only 20 years of age Alvarez has proven his quality and caliber over the past three seasons (with one lost year) over six levels of the minor leagues.
Alvarez has defied expectations throughout his minor league tenure. At the age of 17 he was assigned to Kingsport and the GCL for his major league debut, instead of to the DSL as expected. Beyond this, the Mets watched as the young catcher absolutely lit up these two leagues of older competition.
With 2020 a lost year of development and with the minor leagues contracted, the Mets assigned Alvarez to Low A Port St. Lucie to begin his 2021 campaign. His 15 games at this level obliterated expectations again as the 19 year old destroyed the pitching in Low A and earned an early promotion to High A Brooklyn. The numbers in Brooklyn were far less awe inspiring but left fans with plenty of reasons to be optimistic.
This past season saw Alvarez assigned to AA Binghmaton alongside Brett Baty and Ronny Mauricio. Again, he quickly distinguished himself as being better than expected and again earned a fairly early promotion to the next level. There, while he struggled in the month of August but shone in the month of September. He came up for a handful of games at the end of the season and, while he struggled in his games against the Atlanta Braves (the whole team did), he showed us a glimpse of what is to come against the Washington Nationals.
Alvarez has a solid contact swing but shouldn’t be looked at for a batting title thanks to his power swing approach. He should translate to the major league level as a player who should maintain a batting average between .250 and .275 with a decent amount of walks. It’s actually the walks that make his contact work and why he rates so highly against a player like Ronny Mauricio. Alvarez has a pretty good grasp of the strike zone and does know how to take a walk. His minor league career OBP is over .100 points higher than his batting average and that is a nice healthy amount for it to be.
If you’ve seen Alvarez connect with a baseball you know he has power. He hit 27 home runs in AA and AAA this past season and capped off the year with a 28th in the majors. Pete Alonso showed more power in 2018 but he was also four years older. Alvarez looks like he has 30 home run power and that the Mets will be happy to utilize him as a DH on days that he cannot catch.
Speed is not one of the weapons that Alvarez has at his disposal. He does run better than Alonso and Jon Oleud (for that matter) but he’s a shorter stocky player and he rumbles down the basepaths. I will say that Alvarez stays engaged and is smart about taking advantage of teams that let their guards down as he showed me in Brooklyn when he stole a sneaky base.
Is Alvarez as good defensively as Nido or McCann? Probably not. Both Nido and McCann rank as plus defenders at their positions where Alvarez is truthfully an average defender. He has a strong arm and reasonable instincts around the plate but I would anticipate being a little disappointed when held in comparison to the others. That being said, when the Mets had Mike Piazza, we were fine with mediocre (and worse) defense from our backstop.
There is a reason that we look at Alvarez as a “Top” prospect. The outlook is really really good with stardom as an expectation. What we have seen in his time coming up through the system suggests that this is possible and that the Mets should be very happy with what they ultimately get from him. The issue, as I mentioned, is what the Mets do with Nido and McCann already on the roster. It’s possible (though it would greatly upset many) that the Mets start Alvarez back in AAA and roll out the same light-hitting duo to start their season.