Mets will favor catch prospect Francisco Alvarez ahead 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, ranking sixth on Baseball America’s most recent Top 100 prospect list.
This will be the first major league call-up for Álvarez, who entered the professional ranks as an amateur signing from Venezuela. One of the hottest prospects of the 2018-19 international signing period, the 5’10” backstop has only added to his pro ball stock. He hit rookie ball very well in his first minor league season, but lost a year of playing action with the minors canceled in 2020. Álvarez opened the ’21 campaign in Low-A but s quickly proved to be 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 this level, an astonishing production for a 19-year-old catcher. This put him near the top of the incoming prospect lists this season, with Álvarez ranking in the preseason top 15 at Baseball America, The Athletic, ESPN and FanGraphs. He opened the year at Double-A Binghamton and connected 18 more home runs in 67 games. His .277/.368/.553 overall line in 296 plate appearances earned him a bump at Triple-A Syracuse in early July.
The Miners’ highest level gave Álvarez his toughest challenge yet, but he still held his own. Over 199 plate appearances there, he carries a .234/.382/.443 slash with nine other homers. He’s batting at a career-worst 26.1% clip, contributing to the mediocre batting average, but the rest of his profile has remained strong. Álvarez has gone 17.1% of his stellar home plate moves there, and he has six doubles in addition to long balls.
Between the top two tiers, Álvarez owns a .260/.374/.511 line with 27 home runs and 22 doubles in 495 plate appearances this season. That stellar performance was enough to convince the Mets front office that he can hold his own against major league guns, even at his age. Setting him up in a pennant race and directly before 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 so far. .
Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweet that the club is likely to break it as a right-handed option at the designated hitter. The Mets acquired Darin Ruf of the Giants at the trade deadline in hopes that he can fill that role, but that acquisition has yet to go through. Ruf has a putrid .152/.216/.197 line in 29 games as the Met. He was 0.216/0.328/0.373 in 314 board appearances before the trade, but his struggles since arriving at Queens have led to questions about how manager Buck Showalter will use the DH role. Scholarship Vesting Deadline Daniel Vogelbach has excelled since joining the Pirates and will continue to gain playing time against right-handed pitchers. Álvarez gives Showalter an alternative to the struggling Ruf for shots against southpaws.
However, it doesn’t seem likely that he will step in directly as the main receiver. The Mets have a veteran James McCann input, with Tomás Nido supporting him. McCann is just .190/.256/.264 in 180 plate appearances, his second straight year offensively. The veteran was rated as a slightly above average defenseman and he received good reviews for his work with the pitching staff. Sending Álvarez directly behind the plate for the final games of the season is more than the front office and the coaching staff appear to be at ease, especially given McCann’s longstanding familiarity with the staff.
Scouting reports on Álvarez have long suggested he is more of a bat receiver. This is largely a testament to his attacking potential, but reviewers have expressed some concern over his defence. BA’s scouting report notes that he had inconsistencies as a fielder and ball blocker. The outlet also suggests that Álvarez’s raw arm strength may be understated due to some flaws in his throwing mechanics.
There is general optimism that Álvarez can eventually iron out those concerns and at least become a competent defender. It’s more of a long-term concern, though. The immediate pressing question for the Mets is whether he can make an offensive impact. The Mets go into their weekend set with a one-game advantage over Atlanta. New York would also hold the Braves’ tiebreaker if they could win even one of the three contests, so they’d head into next week at the top of the division less than a sweep. Securing their first NL East title since 2015 would come with a corresponding first-round bye, making these final six contests absolutely crucial.
Álvarez’s promotion for such important regular-season games raises the possibility of him making the playoff roster as well. Only players on a team’s 40-man roster as of September 1 are automatically eligible to play in a season’s playoffs. However, players in an organization but not out of the 40 players as of September 1 box being added to a playoff list in place of someone on the injured list via a petition to the commissioner’s office. This situation is fairly common every playoff, so the Mets shouldn’t have much trouble getting Álvarez into the playoff roster if they want to.
New York will need to add Álvarez to their 40-man roster before tomorrow night’s game. Their roster is currently full, so they will need to complete a corresponding transaction. He would have been added to the 40 men post-season anyway to keep him from getting caught in the Rule 5 draft, so there’s little harm in bringing him in a few weeks early. Álvarez will recover his first days of service in the major leagues, but will not be eligible for free agency until after the 2028 season at the earliest. His quickest path to refereeing eligibility is after the 2025 campaign, and it’s certainly possible he’ll spend more time in the minors polishing his defense and at least delaying his free-agent trajectory.
In the meantime, Mets fans will get their first glimpse of a player they hope will be a key part of the franchise’s future. McCann is under contract for two more seasons, at $12.15 million a year until 2024. It stands to reason that Álvarez will have the opportunity to supplant him on the depth chart at some point. next year. For now, he’ll set foot in the majors as a top-choice option for the stretch run – with perhaps some playoff action on the horizon.
Image courtesy of USA Today Sports.
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