Name: Francisco Alvarez
Weight: 230 lbs.
Acquired: IFA, July 2, 2018 (Guatire, Venezuela)
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.
His much-anticipated full-season debut never actually got to happen in 2020 thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, but he was invited to the Coney Island alternate site and the fall instructional league, where he impressed many in and outside of the organization. He finally made his full-season debut in 2021, being assigned to the Low-A St. Lucie Mets to begin the year. Despite being one of the youngest players in the league, the backstop looked like a man among boys, hitting .417/.567/.646 in 15 games with 2 home runs, 15 walks, and 7 strikeouts. By the end of the month, the Mets promoted the 19-year-old to High-A Brooklyn, where he would be almost four years younger than the league average. His time with the Cyclones would have some peaks (.299/.419/.636 in 24 games in June with 6 home runs and a 14:22 BB:K ratio) and valleys (.189/.294/.419 in 21 games in July with 5 home runs and an 8:28 BB:K ratio) but overall the young catcher performed at an elite level, hitting .247/.351/.538 in 84 games with 22 home runs (a new Cyclones record), 40 walks, and 82 strikeouts.
At the plate, Alvarez stands open with a wide base and the bat high, wrapped behind his head. Swinging with a toe tap or very minute leg lift, he transfers his weight and power from load to hips extremely efficiently and the ball explodes off the bat when he makes solid contact. Oftentimes, players that wrap the bat head behind their heads have difficulties keeping their swing short or keeping the trajectory of the ball in their swing path, but thanks to Alvarez’ strong wrists and exceptional bat speed, this minor hitch is not a problem. The swing itself is loose and flows, and the ball really jumps off his bat when he makes solid contact. Over the course of the 2021 season, the young backstop maintained an extremely high exit velocity, averaging 94.7 MPH in his time in Low-A and maxing out at 108.7 MPH.
He has an advanced approach at the plate for someone so young, a skill honed further by his time spent behind the plate. While his 72.9% contact rate in 2021 was a little lower than the MLB average (around 80%), he swings at fewer pitches outside the zone than the MLB average and makes harder contact, meaning that he is selective with the pitches he attacks outside of the zone and generally goes after pitches that he feels comfortable driving. Alvarez is unlikely to add more power thanks to additional growth- he is already 230-pounds- but might by further refining his swing mechanics and/or plate discipline. He uses the entire field and hits more balls in the air than he does on the ground, allowing his natural power charge the ball.
Behind the plate, the Venezuelan is an impressive catcher. Among his cohort, only Kansas City Royals prospect MJ Melendez saw more inning behind the dish than Alvarez’ 488.1. In fact, his 488.1 innings are more than any top catching prospect not named Adley Rutchman, Joey Bart, or Shea Langeliers (all of whom are considerably older and were collegiate players). Alvarez moves incredibly well behind the plate, especially for someone as stocky as him- though he will likely need to maintain his weight in the future to continue to be. The Mets were working with him in 2021 to frame pitches better by having him receive the ball on one knee, and while it did not lead to more passed balls, it did influence his ability to control the running game. Alvarez has an above-average arm in terms of strength and accuracy and has posted above-average pop and release times in the past, but needs to further refine those attributes with his framing abilities.
In addition to all of his physical baseball skills, Alvarez also has a makeup and presence that earns universal praise from scouts, evaluators, coaches, and teammates. He is tough as nails and forces his way into the lineup despite the general rigors of catching. He has a high baseball IQ despite his years and is given latitude when handling his pitching staff- and they generally rave about his work. He is an energetic gamer on the field and is an excellent clubhouse presence.