Name: Francisco Alvarez
Weight: 220 lbs.
Acquired: IFA, July 2, 2018 (Guatire, Venezuela)
7 G, 26 AB, .462 /.548/.846, 12 H, 4 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 4 BB, 4 K, 0/1 SB, .500 BABIP (Rookie-GCL)
35 G, 131 AB, .282/.377/.443, 37 H, 6 2B, 0 3B, 5 HR, 17 BB, 33 K, 1/2 SB, .344 BABIP (Rookie-APPY)
Considered one of the top international rookies in the 2018-2019 class, the Mets pounced on Venezuelan catcher Francisco Alvarez, immediately signing him for a club-high $2.7 million, breaking Ronny Mauricio’s then-record $2.1 million signing bonus. The Mets elected not to have him play professionally that year, instead delaying his professional debut until 2019. The 17-year-old began his year with the GCL Mets, but forced a promotion to Kingsport after hitting .462/.548/.846 in seven games. As the youngest player in the league, Alvarez appeared in 35 games for Kingsport, catching 23 and serving as DH in 12, and hit a robust .282/.377/.443.
Alvarez has a very advanced approach at the plate for someone so young. He stands with a wide base, holding the bat high and barring it behind his head. He swings using a toe tap mechanism, generating power from his stocky body and above-average bat speed. The swing itself is loose and flows, and the ball really jumps off his bat when he makes solid contact. His frame is unlikely to fill in much more, but he will likely add more power in the future thanks to refinements in his swing and an improved eye- and as it is, he already a good eye and a fairly patient approach, recognizing spin well and displaying a good sense of the strike zone.
Along with Andres Regnault and Wilfred Astudillo, Francisco Alvarez has split catching duties for the Kingsport Mets at roughly a 33% timeshare. Though a stocky 5’11”, 220-lbs., he is incredibly mobile behind the dish. In the future, his weight may need effort to maintain, but for now, it should be no issue. He is adept at framing and blocking pitches. His arm is above-average, as are his pop times, release and accuracy. He is wise beyond his years, handling his pitching staff well and generally being an energetic gamer and excellent clubhouse presence. He is also tough as nails, taking a beating behind the plate but not letting it stop him getting into games.
Alvarez was easily the most impressive player I saw not only on the Kingsport Mets, but on the Danville Braves and Pulaski Yankees as well. He stood out with the bat, going 5-17 with 3 doubles, 5 walks, and 5 strikeouts. He stood out with the glove, blocking pitches, framing pitches, and showing a good arm. From what I’ve heard, he stands out in the intangibles department as well, being a leader and positive clubhouse presence. There’s a lot to like and very little not to like, so hopefully all goes well in his baseball development and we see him in Queens in a few years.
At the risk of falling pray to the ‘shiny new toy’ fallacy, I’m real excited about Francisco Alvarez. Described as a defensively sound catcher without a standout tool in most pre-2019 reports, Alvarez made a mockery of the GCL before performing even better in a brief cameo at Kingsport. He hit for power and demonstrated the ability to wait for his pitch while keeping his strikeouts at a reasonable level. The “catchers are weird” trope exists for a reason, and there are ample ways this could go wrong – failing to learn the finer points of catcher defense, not hitting against better competition, etc. – but this is a prospect I’m eager to watch in 2020. Hopefully he’ll be challenged with an assignment to Columbia.
As a prospect writer that has chosen to focus on the minor league system of one particular team that I also happen to have a deep-seated and longstanding emotional investment in, I often feel as if I am constantly waging a war between my head and my heart. As a fan, I want the world for all of these players, but as a writer and semi-informed person who doesn’t want to mislead readers, I’m constantly trying to keep my expectations on their potential in check. My head tells me that Pete Alonso is going to be good. My heart tells me that he is going to be special. These two forces are always at odds with each other, and I’m constantly trying to recognize and rectify the situation when one is having an undue influence on the proper functioning of the other.
When it comes to Francisco Alvarez, I’m not sure if I’m capable of keeping my expectations in check. While his resume may be short, having signed with the organization as a 16 year old backstop from Venezuela a little over a year and a half ago, it already boasts a number of accomplishments that warrant his inclusion towards the top of this list. Alvarez debuted with the GCL Mets and managed to quickly mash his way to a promotion to the Appalachian League, where he hit a well above-average .282/.377/.443 in 151 plate appearances despite being the literal youngest player in the league. The first thing that one notices about Alvarez when looking at him is just how strong he looks. There is some serious bat speed present in his relatively simple swing, which is probably helped in part by his imposingly big forearms and fast wrists. The swing is compact and lightning-quick through the zone, and even in my admittedly miniscule look at him on the backfields prior to the 2019 season, it became abundantly clear that this kid oozes potential in a way that few prospects that have come through the system in recent years have. There are risk factors of course, and the Appalachian League has a funny way of making mole hills look like mountains from time to time, but I can’t quite keep my heart from getting carried away with dreams of Alvarez blossoming into one of the best prospects in baseball within a year’s time.
Alvarez is someone I am very excited about, enough to rank him third on my personal top 25 list. At 17 he is mostly just potential at this point, but he was good enough to shoot up from 25 on our 2018 list, all the way up to six this season. He has shown to be an all-around quality defender behind the dish, and he added a blistering .312/.407/.510 across the Gulf Coast League and Kingsport, which makes him prime for an aggressive promotion to begin 2020. By all accounts he has a strong approach at the dish as well. Alvarez is someone I am going to be keeping a very close eye on this year – while he is young, and hardly a sure thing, I find it personally very hard not to be excited by the early returns, especially at a position that is so hard to find talent in across the league.