The chances that the New York Mets’ top prospect could make a big-league impact this season have certainly increased. We started this season’s edition of Minor League Mondays with a look at catcher Francisco Alvarez, who got off to a very hot start with AA Binghamton. Alvarez has continued to rake for the Rumble Ponies throughout the season, earning himself a promotion to AAA Syracuse that is set to take effect this week.
There is no question that Alvarez’s bat is big-league ready right now. In 67 games for Binghamton this season, Alvarez has hit .277 with 16 doubles, 18 home runs, 47 RBI and a .921 OPS. When you factor in Alvarez’s totals last season as well the numbers get even more ridiculous as he has hit .286 with 34 doubles, 42 home runs, and 117 RBI in 580 at-bats. Those numbers would be absurd production from any position over the course of a full season but the fact that Alvarez is doing it behind the plate would make him an extremely valuable weapon if that production can carry over to the major leagues.
There have reportedly been internal conversations about whether or not to promote Alvarez to the big club now in order to take advantage of his bat in a lineup that could use some more pop. The Mets’ catching duo of James McCann and Tomas Nido isn’t producing much, with their production equaling a .195 batting average with nine doubles, three home runs and 24 RBI. Those stats include Patrick Mazeika’s stint as the backup catcher while McCann missed nearly six weeks due to injury, numbers that Alvarez would likely improve upon if he gets the call to the big league level.
The reason that the Mets appear hesitant to promote Alvarez directly to the major leagues is due to the fact that he still needs to improve defensively, notably in terms of pitch framing and calling a game. Max Scherzer recently rehabbed with Binghamton and was caught by Alvarez in both games. While the reports from Scherzer were positive about Alvarez, a stop at AAA likely wouldn’t hurt his development to give him a chance to catch every day while also facing another level of advanced pitching.
This decision appears to have bought time for the Mets to explore their options at the trade deadline before exploring whether to push Alvarez up to the majors by the end of the season. A significant trade for a designated hitter, like Washington’s Josh Bell or Baltimore’s Trey Mancini, would take away a lot of DH at-bats that could go to Alvarez, who would then need to catch several times a week in order to get into the lineup. Asking a veteran catcher to adapt to a new pitching staff in the middle of a pennant race is a tall order, so expecting a rookie to make that transition may not be fair.
If Alvarez continues to rake at AAA, another option the Mets could explore is to bring him up as a primary designated hitter who catches once or twice a week. This would allow Alvarez to be in the Mets’ lineup often without having to become the Mets’ primary catcher, a move that would likely aid his development without placing unrealistic expectations on him. Simply put, Alvarez can say a lot about his future if he continues to torture minor league pitching over the next few weeks.