NEW YORK -- The Mets received a jolt of positive news from the farm on Thursday, when the team announced that top prospect Francisco Álvarez will not undergo surgery on his right ankle, which has kept him out of action for more than a week. Álvarez instead planned to receive an injection in the hopes of restarting baseball activities in three to four days.
The organization harbors significant confidence that Álvarez will be able to play in September. While that’s more likely to occur at Triple-A Syracuse than in the Majors, the Mets should be able to use the final month of the season to determine whether the injection can fix his issue on a permanent basis, or if he will require surgery this offseason.
Álvarez, 20, has been suffering from a loose body in his right ankle, which is essentially a bone or cartilage fragment lodged in the joint. Doctors hope that by injecting Álvarez with a mix of cortisone and a gel substance, they can not only reduce inflammation in the area, but also move the loose body to a less painful area. In some cases, such injections can even lead to the body reabsorbing the loose fragment.
Álvarez’s return to play “will be dictated by his response to the injection and baseball activities,” according to a team release.
Over the past week, the Mets weighed multiple options for Álvarez, MLB Pipeline’s top overall prospect, including season-ending surgery to remove the fragment. He has not played since Aug. 23 at Syracuse, where he was slashing .180/.340/.378 in 32 games prior to his injury. While surgery remains a long-term option if the injection does not work as intended, there is a reasonable chance that Álvarez will avoid it.
If Álvarez is healthy enough to play in September, it will also keep open the possibility that the Mets could call him up to the Majors for an offensive spark. So far, the team has resisted doing so, but the struggles of catchers James McCann and Tomás Nido, as well as those of right-handed DH Darin Ruf, have left the door cracked.
Before his promotion to Syracuse, where he remains the youngest player at the level, Álvarez slashed .277/.368/.553 in 67 games at Double-A Binghamton.