The Mets will promote catching prospects Francisco Alvarez in advance of the team’s pivotal weekend series against the Braves, reports Daniel Álvarez Montes of El ExtraBase (Twitter link). The 20-year-old is one of the sport’s top minor league talents, checking in sixth on Baseball America’s most recent Top 100 list.
It’ll be the first major league call for Álvarez, who entered the professional ranks as an amateur signee out of Venezuela. One of the better prospects in the 2018-19 international signee period, the 5’10” backstop has only raised his stock in pro ball. He hit very well in rookie ball during his first minor league season, but he lost a year of game action with the cancellation of the minors in 2020. Varez opened the ’21 campaign in Low-A but quickly proved himself far too advanced. for the level, and he spent most of the year in High-A.
Álvarez hit .247/.351/.538 with 22 home runs in 84 games at that level, astonishing production for a 19-year-old catcher. It vaulted him near the top of prospect lists entering this season, with Álvarez cracking the preseason top 15 at Baseball America, The Athletic, ESPN and FanGraphs. He opened the year at Double-A Binghamton and connected on another 18 round-trippers in 67 games. His overall .277/.368/.553 line across 296 plate appearances earned him a bump to Triple-A Syracuse in early July.
The minors’ top level has given Álvarez his toughest challenge to date, but he’s still generally holding his own. Over 199 plate appearances there, he carries a .234/.382/.443 slash with another nine homers. He’s striking out at a career-worst 26.1% clip, contributing to the mediocre batting average, but the rest of his profile has remained strong. Álvarez has walked in a stellar 17.1% of his trips to the plate there, and he’s collected six doubles in addition to the longballs.
Between the two upper levels, Álvarez owns a .260/.374/.511 line with 27 homers and 22 doubles over 495 plate appearances this season. That excellent showing has been enough to convince the Mets front office that he can hold his own against big league arms, even at his age. Installing him into a pennant race and directly in advance of the Mets’ biggest regular season series of the year is a strong show of faith, but Álvarez has performed well at every stop on the minor league ladder thus far.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets that the club is likely to break him as a right-handed option at designated hitter. The Mets acquired Darin Ruff from the Giants at the trade deadline in hopes he could fill that role, but that acquisition hasn’t panned out yet. Ruf has a putrid .152/.216/.197 line in 29 games as a Met. He hit a serviceable .216/.328/.373 in 314 plate appearances before the trade, but his struggles since landing in Queens have led to some questions about how manager Buck Showalter will use the DH role. Fellow deadline acquisition Daniel Vogelbach has excelled since coming over from the Pirates and will continue to pick up the playing time against right-handed pitching. Álvarez gives Showalter an alternative to the struggling Ruf for at-bats against left-handers.
It doesn’t seem likely he’ll step directly in as the primary catcher, however. The Mets have veterans James McCann as the starter, with Tomás Nido backing him up. McCann is hitting only .190/.256/.264 in 180 plate appearances, his second straight down year offensively. The veteran has rated as a slightly above-average defender, and he’s drawn strong reviews for his work with the pitching staff. Sending Álvarez directly behind the plate for the final few games of the season is more than the front office and coaching staff appear to be comfortable with.
Scouting reports on Álvarez have long suggested he’s more of a bat-first catcher. That’s largely a testament to his offensive potential, but evaluators have expressed some concern about his defense. BA’s scouting report notes that he’s had some inconsistency as a pitch framer and ball blocker. The outlet also suggests that Álvarez’s plus raw arm strength can play down because of some flaws in his throwing mechanics.
More to come.