Mets to promote Francisco Alvarez

The Mets will promote forward Francisco Álvarez ahead of the team’s pivotal weekend series against the Braves, El ExtraBase’s Daniel Álvarez Montes reports (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 prospects list.

It will be the first Major League call-up for Álvarez, who entered the professional ranks as an amateur signer from Venezuela. One of the brighter prospects in the 2018-19 international signing period, the 5’10” backstop has only increased his stock in pro ball. He hit very well at rookieball during his first minor league season, but he lost a year of game action with the cancellation of the minors in 2020. Álvarez opened the ’21 campaign in Low-A, but soon proved that he was way too advanced. was for the level, and he spent most of the year in High-A.

Álvarez hit .247/.351/.538 with 22 homeruns in 84 games at that level, an amazing production for a 19-year-old catcher. It took him to the top of prospect lists coming in 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, making an additional 18 round-trippers in 67 games. His total .277/.368/.553 line over 296 at bats gave him a bump on Triple-A Syracuse in early July.

The top tier of the minors has given Álvarez his toughest challenge yet, but he has still held his own overall. Over 199 at bats there, he carries a .234/.382/.443 slash with another nine home runs. He scored at a career worst 26.1% record, adding to the mediocre batting average, but the rest of his profile has remained strong. Álvarez has walked a whopping 17.1% of his trips to the plate there, racking up six doubles in addition to the longballs.

Between the two top tiers, Álvarez owns a .260/.374/.511 line with 27 home runs and 22 doubles over 495 at bats this season. That outstanding performance was enough to convince the Mets front office that he can hold his own in the big league battle, even at his age. Putting him in a pennant race and directly ahead of the Mets’ biggest regular season run of the year is a strong vote of confidence, but Álvarez has performed well on every rung of the ladder so far.

Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets that the club will likely break him as a right-handed option at designated batter. The Mets bought Darin Ruf from the Giants on the trade deadline in hopes that he could fill that role, but that acquisition has yet to materialize. Ruf has a rotten .152/.216/.197 line in 29 games as a Met. He hit a serviceable .216/.328/.373 in 314 at bats for the trade, but his struggles since landing in Queens has 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 playing time against righthanded pitching. Álvarez gives Showalter an alternative to struggling Ruf for left-handers at bats.

However, it doesn’t seem likely that he will act as primary catcher right away. The Mets have veteran James McCann as their starter, with Tomás Nido as backup. McCann hits only .190/.256/.264 in 180 at bats, his second consecutive year of offensive. The veteran has been rated as a slightly above average defender and has received strong reviews for his work with the pitching staff. Sending Álvarez behind the plate for the last few games of the season is more than just the front office and the coaching staff seem to be at ease, especially given McCann’s longstanding acquaintance with the staff.

Scouting reports about Álvarez have long suggested that he is more of a bat-first catcher. That’s largely a testament to his offensive potential, but reviewers 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 exhaust also suggests that Álvarez’ plus may reduce raw arm strength due to some flaws in his throwing mechanics.

There is general optimism that Álvarez can eventually allay those concerns and at the very least become a competent defender. That’s more of a long-term question, though. The immediate pressing issue for the Mets is whether he can make an impact offensively. New York enters the weekend set with a one game lead over Atlanta. New York would also hold the tiebreaker over the Braves if they can win even one of the three games, so they would go to the top of the division next week unless they are swept. Securing their first NL East title since 2015 would come with a corresponding first-round bye, making these last six games crucial.

lvarez’s promotion to such important regular season games raises the possibility that he will crack the postseason roster as well. Only players who are in a 40-man squad on September 1 are automatically eligible to participate in the playoffs. However, players in an organization, but not on the 40-man on September 1, can be added to a playoff roster in lieu of someone on the injured list via a petition to the commissioner’s office. That situation is quite common after the season, so the Mets shouldn’t have much trouble getting Álvarez on the playoff list if they want to.

New York will have to add him to their 40-man roster for tomorrow night’s game. Their roster is currently full, so they have to make a corresponding trade. He would have been added to the 40-man post-season anyway to avoid being drafted into the Rule 5 draft, so there’s no harm in raising him a few weeks early. Álvarez will receive his first few days of major league service, but will not be eligible for free agency until after the 2028 season at the earliest. His fastest path to qualifying for arbitration is after the 2025 campaign, and it’s certainly possible he’ll spend more time with the minors polishing his defense and at least slowing his free agency trajectory.

In the meantime, Mets fans will get their first glimpse of a player they hope will become an important part of the franchise’s future. McCann is under contract for two more seasons, with an annual fee of $12.15 million until 2024. It makes sense that Álvarez would get the chance to replace him somewhere on the depth map next year. For now, he’ll get his feet in the majors as a bat-first option for the stretch run — with maybe some post-season action on the horizon.

Image courtesy of USA Today Sports.

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