Mets prospect Álvarez 'impressive to watch'

May 20th, 2021

Power-hitting catchers are a rare breed. The Mets have reason to believe they’ve found one in .

New York’s No. 1 prospect and No. 38 overall according to MLB Pipeline, Álvarez entered Thursday hitting .455/.578/.636 with one home run, three doubles, six RBIs and 10 walks in 11 games for the Low-A St. Lucie Mets this season. In 45 plate appearances, he has struck out just four times. While the sample size is small, the 19-year-old backstop, who is listed at 5-foot-10 and 233 pounds, has impressed with his raw power and advanced approach at the plate.

“Easily starts with how he controls the strike zone,” St. Lucie hitting coach Tommy Joseph said by phone. “For a young kid to be able to swing at strikes, take the balls, as simple as that sounds, it's extremely hard. And he's done a tremendous job at it. And when he's getting pitches to hit, he's taking an aggressive swing and he's trying to do damage. It’s been very impressive to watch.”

The Venezuelan-born Álvarez made his pro debut in Rookie ball in 2019 at 17 and slashed .312/.407/.510 with seven home runs and 26 RBIs in 42 games. Though he lost a year of competitive development with the cancellation of the 2020 Minor League season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he had the chance to showcase his explosive bat at the Mets’ alternate training site in Brooklyn, N.Y., last year and appreciated the opportunity to rub elbows with more experienced players.

“It’s hard because you want to play and show your talent,” Álvarez said by phone, in Spanish, about not playing in 2020. “That was a big learning experience for me, because I was with guys who have played in the Major Leagues and are still in the Major Leagues. I focused on learning a lot from them, seeing how they play, what they do, what they don’t do. That helped me a lot.”

Álvarez was one of several top Mets prospects invited to big league Spring Training this year. He was slated to play for the Sydney Blue Sox of the Australian Baseball League over the offseason, but after spending much of the year stateside due to Venezuela closing its borders in response to the pandemic, he opted to return home for the holidays.

“I’d gone a long time without seeing my family. I wanted to see my family and be with them,” Álvarez said.

Projected to reach the Majors in 2023, the right-handed-hitting Álvarez has a chance to become an elite offensive catcher -- an elusive commodity in today’s game. There is optimism that Álvarez can improve his defensive game enough to stick behind the plate long term, which will likely determine his superstar potential. His strong throwing arm, which received a 60 grade from MLB Pipeline, bodes well in that regard.

“It’s definitely elite,” said Joseph, who played first base for the Phillies from 2016-17 but was a catcher in the Minors. “He's thrown out basestealers that easily should have been safe because of pitches or the elements, and he's gunned them down. He’s a fun guy to watch throw, that's for sure.”

Added Joseph: “He just needs to keep playing, he needs to just keep getting more game reps, behind the plate in a big situation with runners on late in the game, you know where you can't let anything by you and you got to make sure that you're calling the right pitch and that you were prepared for that situation. I think that's what he has to work on and that just comes over time.”

Álvarez cites fellow countryman and former Major Leaguer Henry Blanco as his inspiration for becoming a catcher. It’s the position he’s been playing since he was 12 and the one he hopes to play when he makes it to the big leagues, where he’d continue a rich legacy of Venezuelan catchers that includes Salvador Pérez, Willson Contreras and Wilson Ramos.

“That’s what I want the most,” said Álvarez, the No. 4-ranked catcher in the Minors per MLB Pipeline. “I really like being a catcher because we’re involved with every pitch, with every play. We’re involved with everything and that keeps me active in the game.”

Álvarez, who received a team-record $2.7 million signing bonus in 2018, has generated plenty of hype with his hot start to the 2021 season. Could he slug his way to Top 20 prospect status?

“Yeah, no doubt in my mind,” said Joseph. “He's got the talent, the ability and the will and the drive to get to that level.”