He marched towards the dugout; mouthing words of confidence that couldn’t be heard through the television screen, but certainly felt. Maybe it was a cry to his teammates to get on base before him since Francisco Alvarez was the third man up in the top of the ninth down 5-0 in Cincinnati.
He would face Kevin Herget, a native of Teaneck who pitched at Kean University, along with multiple other franchises before entering the game Wednesday afternoon, vying for his first professional save.
Alvarez approached the plate with bravado, the last chance to salvage a game that was lost after giving up four runs in the opening frame. Any attempt to salvage a surprising victory would need to start with one run. Alvarez almost got one a few innings earlier after he doubled down the right field line. A batter later, Alvarez got thrown out at the plate attempting to advance on a hard hit single by Francisco Lindor.
But the stocky 5’11 catcher has never been known for his footspeed. Alvarez has been a wonderkid down on the farm for what’s felt like forever, but really has been just within the last five years.
“The Mets landed Álvarez on a $2.7 million bonus during the 2018 international signing period, the club’s largest payout to an international prospect. Álvarez was ranked as the No. 17 international prospect in his class, according to MLB Pipeline. His success in three Minor League seasons has not come from a transformation from his initial profile.”
Alvarez’s Road to the Show has been brief, especially when you consider that he’ll turn 22 this November. All of this may seem to be happening extremely fast, but it’s been foretold by others for years. Scouts like Ryan Miller, who put together a report for Just Baseball two years ago when Alvarez was playing High-A across the bridge in Brooklyn, saw the potential in Alvarez.
Miller said about Alvarez at age 19, “Behind the Orioles’ Adley Rutschman, I would argue that Francisco Alvarez is the best catching prospect in baseball.”
Rutschman is 25 years old and starting over former Met Brian McCann in Baltimore. He started 113 games last year as a rookie, hitting .254 with 35 doubles and has been declared by Bleacher Report to be living up to the hype as MLB’s next great catcher. The O’s finished four games over .500 last year and are 10 games over that line this year.
In Miller’s scouting report, he mentioned the hype that had to surround a teenager, about the same age as a high school sophomore, being recruited to play baseball. There’s an entire financial system in place with compensated employees from all 30 MLB teams that make their living finding and signing players like Rutschman and Alvarez. Miller believed so.
“Aside from the hype coming out of Venezuela, Alvarez has raked at every level since being signed in 2018. While there is still work on defense, his strong arm and ability to handle a staff will help with development.”
During the Mets’ three-game series against the Reds, Alvarez showed off all of these features from behind the plate. From his knees, he threw out base runners attempting to steal second in Tuesday’s loss and again on Wednesday. In that contest, Justin Verlander gave up two hits and a run in the first inning. The SNY cameras caught the duo talking it out and getting on the same page. The Reds didn’t have another hit the rest of the night.
No one was thinking about hitting, pitching or playing baseball during the global pandemic; except those attempting to make that their professional living. Alvarez was lucky enough to spend some time in 2019 at the Mets’ alternative training site.
“We were thrilled to get him in there,” former Mets farm director Jared Banner told MLB.com in October 2020. “A catcher his age getting a chance to work with some older pitchers and pick their brains on things like how to call a game and prepare. ... I think it was a very valuable time for him.”
Afterwards, instead of a winter trip to Sydney to play in the Australian Baseball League, Alvarez went back to Venezuela for the first time in over a year to see his family. He returned and responded with his best season in the minor leagues in 2021, forcing his way up the ladder and making his presence known to opponents and fans alike with raving scouting reports like this one from evaluator Jake Martin on Prospects Live, who concluded he was “Above-Average Everyday Regular: Occasional All-Star”
As a hitter: Alvarez does a good job balancing a swing with power potential and more than an average amount of contact points. Has slightly above average bat-to-ball skills and plate discipline.
Power: More gap-to-gap power than home run power but, given he is still only 19 years old, he could easily gain additional strength and turn those extra base hits into home runs.
Defense: Arm really plays behind the plate. Perfect stocky frame for a catcher with plus athleticism and time to improve.
“As Alvarez continues to get used to higher level pitching and how he is being attacked, his strong approach and fantastic bat to ball skills should keep his K-rate in the low 20s at worst.”
When he was called up last September before the series against the Braves, I didn’t have any expectations. The team was scuffling offensively and I didn’t believe adding a 20-year old catcher wasn’t going to help. It didn’t and with late-season callups, he was in uniform to see the end of a successful and heartbreaking season. One he wasn’t part of, but still got to take part in the pain. It didn’t help, but it couldn’t have hurt.
It couldn’t hurt to have heard about the successful big club all year, then get called up only to see it all collapse. If Mets fans can’t seem to get last September out of their heads, what do you think it’s like for a 20-year old?
“There aren’t many doubts that he will stick at catcher, so the Mets have something to be very excited about in the not-so-distant future.”
The future Miller speaks of is now. Manager Buck Showalter recently said that Tomas Nido was having trouble seeing lately, especially at night. While Mets fans see the set-up to joke about his .118 average in 51 at bats, Nido was placed on the IL (retroactive to May 7) with dry eye syndrome. Add that to the fact that Omar Narvaez isn’t eligible to return off the IL until June 5 and the 21-year old prospect is the Mets’ No. 1 starting catcher for the next month. We’ll all get to see if he can live up to the hype and that’s the truth.
Upcoming Series: New York Mets at Washington Nationals
Friday, May 12 - 7:05 PM
TBD vs. MacKenzie Gore (3-2, 3.65 ERA)
Saturday, May 13 - 4:05 PM
TBD vs. Trevor Williams (1-1, 4.25 ERA)
Sunday, May 14 - 1:35 PM
TBD vs. Jake Irvin (1-0, 0.85 ERA)
Monday, May 15 - 4:05 PM
TBD vs. Patrick Corbin (1-5, 4.87 ERA)
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