The Mets’ search for a fourth outfielder lasted longer than expected. They had their eye on certain players who decided to sign elsewhere, leading them to a one-year deal with Tommy Pham. New York’s offense could probably still use more power, and some thought top prospect Francisco Alvarez could provide that.
Not so fast, folks. At least that’s what SNY’s Andy Martino is saying. In discussing the Mets’ outfield situation, he also threw in a tidbit about Alvarez that has ruffled some feathers:
Mets made offers to McCutchen and Duvall. Here's why those 2 chose elsewhere, why Tommy Pham appears very soon to become a Met, and why Francisco Alvarez will not, repeat will not, be the DH.https://t.co/I4GznMoaQj
— Andy Martino (@martinonyc) January 18, 2023
If you read the full article, it’s not just a hot take. It actually makes sense based on everything we know about the Mets’ long-term plan. Here’s what Martino said:
One decision they have already made: Power-hitting catching prospect Francisco Alvarez is not in the full-time DH mix. The way the organization sees it, Alvarez needs to continue to develop as a catcher, which he will probably do in Triple-A at the beginning of the year. He might DH a bit in the big leagues, but cannot be counted on to fill the position on a daily basis.
Alvarez is 21 years old. While he made his big-league debut in 2022, he’s spent just 45 games at Triple-A. He’s the best catching prospect in baseball (according to MLB.com) and the Mets clearly want him to stick at that position for a while.
James McCann now plays for the Baltimore Orioles, but Tomas Nido has been joined by Omar Narvaez on the big-league roster at catcher. That already signaled New York didn’t think Alvarez was ready for everyday catching duties. It’s fair to say the young backstop disagrees, though.
Alvarez is confident his time is now (quote via SNY):
My defense is ready for the major leagues. What the Mets asked me to do was improve my English so I could communicate with the entire pitching staff.
As if that wasn’t clear enough, he also went on record saying he’s “100% sure” he’ll be on the Mets’ Opening Day roster.
These feelings could be based on conversations he’s had with New York’s decision-makers, or it could just be his confidence coming to light. Either way, it’ll be an interesting storyline to follow throughout Spring Training.
The Mets will report to Port St. Lucie with some questions on offense. The hope will be that Eduardo Escobar keeps the momentum going from his strong finish to 2022 and Narvaez gives the lineup more than McCann did at catcher. But, designated hitter is once again a legitimate question.
It’s easy to see the Mets’ rationale for not having Alvarez in the big leagues to be the full-time DH. They want to keep developing the whole package. But for Alvarez to make good on what he’s saying here, there’s only one option. Tear apart Grapefruit League pitching so much that the only choice is to put him on the roster.
What would that take? First of all, New York’s current DH options — which include Pham, Darin Ruf, and Daniel Vogelbach — would need to generally struggle during camp. Alvarez would also have to rip the cover off the ball from start to finish.
While it was a different situation, Pete Alonso’s 2019 Spring Training performance comes to mind. He should’ve gotten promoted to the majors at the end of 2018, but it didn’t happen. Alonso entered camp the following spring with a chance to be the starting first baseman. The slugger had to prove he was ready for it, though.
He proceeded to slash .352/.387/.620 with 10 extra-base hits (five doubles, one triple, four homers), 11 RBI, four walks, and 12 strikeouts in 71 plate appearances. That won him the job, and things went pretty well from there.
All MLB teams want their top prospects to get the appropriate amount of development before getting their chance at the game’s highest level. Things don’t always go according to plan, though. Players sometimes force their respective teams to make a decision. It appears the stars will have to align for Alvarez to be on the Mets’ Opening Day roster. However, the blueprint to make it happen is there.
And, even if he and Brett Baty begin 2023 in Triple-A, they’ll probably be the first ones called upon to join Buck Showalter’s club if an offensive jolt is needed.