What are the Mets going to do with Francisco Alvarez?
Their top prospect and the consensus pick to be the catcher of the future is inching toward a 2023 season that could very well be his first full foray into life in the major leagues — or could be another year in which a majority of it is spent in the minors.
There is little question that the 21-year-old’s bat is ready for the bigs. He posted an .885 OPS with 27 home runs and 78 RBI in 112 games between Double-A Binghamton and Triple-A Syracuse last season before getting a call-up to the Mets toward the very end of the 2022 season.
He went 2-for-12 in five games in the majors with one home run and one RBI.
Concerns still revolve around his defense, though, which appeared to be the facet of his game that was going to slightly delay his ascent to Queens full-time. He simply does not have enough experience catching big-league pitchers — especially the likes of Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer — which would be an enormous task for the youngster to fulfill for a team whose World Series window is perceived to be open but quite small.
General manager Billy Eppler proceeded to create a temporary logjam at the position as well by bringing on Omar Narvaez to work alongside Tomas Nido behind the plate in 2023. Both are solid defensive catchers and Narvaez, an All-Star in 2021, already said that if he “can help Alvarez grow and be part of the team, I’m going to do it.”
That’s at least something to watch for during spring training where Alvarez can pick up some defensive tips from the veterans.
Of course, the initial suggestion of a workaround to this would have been to make Alvarez a designated hitter option to support a spot in the lineup that struggled so mightily last season between the failed tryouts of Dominic Smith and JD Davis before Daniel Vogelbach couldn’t provide the necessary power and Darin Ruf fell woefully flat.
However, the Mets have brought in veteran Tommy Pham as a depth option behind corner outfielders Mark Canha and Starling Marte — but he could also add another dimension to the DH platoon alongside Vogelbach given his career .843 OPS against left-handed pitching.
Because of that, SNY’s Andy Martino reported last week that Alvarez is not in the mix for the Mets’ full-time DH job.
Again, the righty isn’t just supposed to be with the Mets for his bat. The only way for him to be the catcher of the future is if his defensive game is up to snuff — and spending most of the season as the DH obviously wouldn’t help those prospects.
Alvarez himself said earlier this month that he will “100%” be on the Mets’ Opening Day roster, but he could still very well begin the 2023 season down in Syracuse to ensure the most well-rounded version of the slugger will be available for Buck Showalter.