Week: 6 G, 24 AB, .375/.429/1.000, 9 H, 3 2B, 0 3B, 4 HR, 10 RBI, 2 BB, 7 K, 0/0 SB (Double-A)
2022 Season: 6 G, 24 AB, .375/.429/1.000, 9 H, 3 2B, 0 3B, 4 HR, 10 RBI, 2 BB, 7 K, 0/0 SB, .357 BABIP (Double-A)
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, but based on potential alone, we voted him the Mets’ 25 top prospect coming into the season. The 17-year-old did not disappoint, starting the year with the GCL Mets but forcing 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.
Over the 2019-2020 offseason, we voted Alvarez the Mets’ 6th top prospect, but he unfortunately did not get to play in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He did get into some organized practice at the Mets’ alternate site in Coney Island and in the fall instructional league, and all of the reviews were rave; as a result, despite there not being a 2020 minor league season, Alvarez raised his stock to the Mets’ 3rd top prospect coming into the 2021 season.
Much like in 2019, Alvarez started the season in Florida but very quickly forced the Mets to promote him. This time, he began the year in St. Lucie, where he hit .417/.567/.646 in 15 games with 2 home runs, 15 walks, and 7 strikeouts as one of the youngest players in the league and was promoted to the Brooklyn Cyclones at the end of May. His time in Brooklyn had some peaks and valleys, hot stretches and cold spells, but overall, the backstop was extremely impressive despite being the youngest player in the league, hitting .247/.351/.538 in 84 games with 22 home runs (a new Cyclones record), 40 walks, and 82 strikeouts. Over the 2021-2022 offseason, Alvarez was voted the Mets top prospect, and is considered one of the top prospects in all of baseball by virtually every reputable outlet.
At the plate, Alvarez stands open with a wide base and the bat high, wrapped behind his head slightly. 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. Players that wrap the bat head behind their heads sometimes have difficulties keeping their swing short or keeping the trajectory of the ball in their swing path, but with Alvarez’ strong wrists and bat speed, the hitch isn’t a problem. The swing is loose, flows, and the ball really jumps off his bat when he makes solid contact. Against fastballs, Alvarez is lethal. He has shown a bit of trouble with breaking balls as he began seeing more advanced ones in 2021, and his ability to adjust to these pitches will likely determine whether or not Alvarez will be a superstar, or merely just a major league contributor in some capacity.
Behind the plate, Alvarez has all of the basics down, which is impressive for someone his age. Key to his defense may be something as simple as working on and maintaining his weight, something he made strides on this past winter. At times in 2019 and 2021, his arm was above-average and accurate; other times, it arm seemed fringy. At times in 2019 and 2021, he posted above-average pop and release times; other times, he posted below average times. At times in 2019 and 2021, he was extremely mobile and spry behind the dish; at other times, he seemed sluggish. In addition, the Mets have altered how he receives balls, transitioning him to catching on one knee to help his framing abilities, a process that is still an ongoing project.
Alvarez did not completely dominate in 2021. He performed spectacularly, yes, and he’s off to an amazing start this season, but there is still work to do. At the plate, I would like to see him hit for a higher average against the advanced pitchers that he is now facing and eliminate some of the swing-and-miss in his game. Behind the plate, he can use work on his receiving and framing. Do I think Alvarez would be able to survive in Triple-A, or dare I say, even the major league right now? Maybe. Is there any reason to push the issue at this point in time? I don’t think so. There is more to lose than there is to gain at this point.
Week: 2 G (2 GS), 8.1 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 17 K (Double-A)
2022 Season: 2 G (2 GS), 8.1 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER (1.08 ERA), 1 BB, 17 K, .333 BABIP (Double-A)
A 19-year-old who signed with the Mets just prior to the end of the 2016-2017 international free agent signing period for $5,000, Jose Butto made his professional debut in 2017 and then made his stateside debut in 2018, splitting the season with the Kingsport Mets and the Brooklyn Cyclones. With Kingsport, he posted a sterling 1.93 ERA in 32.2 innings, but struggled in Brooklyn, posting a 6.11 ERA in 28.0 innings. In total on the year, the 20-year-old posted a 3.86 ERA in 60.2 innings, allowing 58 hits, walking 22, and striking out 55.
Butto was promoted to the Columbia Fireflies in 2019 and spent the entire season there, posting a solid 3.62 ERA in 112.0 innings, allowing 100 hits, walking 31, and striking out 109. Like most other players, he did not play professionally in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, returning to the mound in 2021 for the Brooklyn Cyclones, now the Mets’ High-A affiliate. Oddly, he had difficulties pitching with the Cyclones for a second time, posting a 4.32 ERA in 58.1 innings. He was promoted to Binghamton at the end of July, and the right-hander responded to the challenge, posting a 3.12 ERA in 40.1 innings. All in all, he posted a 3.83 ERA in 98.2 innings, allowing 84 hits, walking 24, and striking out 110. Over the offseason, he was voted the Mets 17 prospect coming into the 2022 season.
The 6’1”, 200 lb. Butto throws from a low three-quarters arm slot, dropping and driving off the mound with smooth, repeatable mechanics. He can reliably work to all four quadrants and has excellent command of all of his pitches; for his career since coming stateside, he has walked 78 batters in 279.2 innings.
His fastball sits in the low-90s, topping out as high as 95 MPH. Earlier on in his career, the pitch sat from the high-80s-to-low-90s, but muscular growth in 2019 and 2020 now allows Butto to sit on the higher end of that range. Even with the additional velocity, it is not a particularly overpowering pitch, but it does have a high spin rate.
His go-to secondary offering is a changeup, one of the better ones in the Mets system at the present if not the best. The pitch sits in the low-to-mid-80s, giving it roughly 10 MPH of velocity differential between it and his fastball, and features late, tumbling action. It tunnels well with his fastball, and Butto is able to command it, throwing it for strikes down in and under the zone. The pitch is a true weapon against left-handers batters but has only been mildly effective against right-handers.
His third offering, a high-70s-to-low-80s curveball, is the worst of his pitches and is currently a below-average offering. The pitch has slight 12-6 break when he has a good feel for it and looser, slurvier break when he does not. Refining the curveball will give Butto a legitimate fringe-average third offering and will be key to his continued baseball development.