Álvarez snaps drought with homer, on base 4 times for Syracuse

August 24th, 2022

We’ve seen this script before.

Francisco Álvarez goes through a rough stretch offensively -- as all players do -- before the light bulb turns on, as if he seemingly remembers he’s baseball’s top prospect.

Perhaps Tuesday night was another one of those light bulbs. Homerless in his last 11 games, Álvarez blasted his career-high-tying 24th of the season, singled in a pair of runs and walked twice in Triple-A Syracuse’s 9-8 win over Worcester.

“Tonight was a good night for him,” Syracuse manager Kevin Boles said. “He’s working counts. I think he’s starting to be a little bit more patient, he was able to get into positive counts tonight and I think that really paid a benefit to him.”

Álvarez drew a walk in the first inning and was driven in two batters later on a home run from Mark Vientos, the Mets’ No. 7 prospect and the reigning International League Player of the Week. Two innings later, Álvarez began making his case for this week’s award.

With a runner on first and one out in the third, the 20-year-old backstop pounced on the first pitch from left-hander Chris Murphy and promptly sent it back up the middle where it came from, only 400-plus feet farther.

“The talent is impressive,” Boles said. “It’s impressive, but it’s through a lot of hard work. It’s not just raw ability. This is someone that’s driven and self-motivated. The good ones are self-motivated, and he’s one of them.”

It’s too early to say that Álvarez has broken out of his slump since one game doesn’t erase essentially the 31 others that he’s played since his promotion from Double-A Binghamton, but the home run is a good indicator. He had endured a longer power outage with the Rumble Ponies in April and May, spanning 29 games, but after breaking out with two homers on May 26, Álvarez slugged .731 over his final 32 games in the Eastern League.

But he has also learned how to impact the game in other ways while his offense is quiet, from learning English to running the pregame pitchers meeting, to staying calm when he strikes out and, perhaps most important, being able to stand out on the defensive side of the ball.

Take Tuesday’s ninth inning, for example, when his agility, arm strength and baseball IQ were on full display. With the tying and go-ahead runs on second and first and one out, right-hander Michel Otañez spiked a fastball in the dirt that hit Álvarez’s mitt and bounced high into the air and behind him, far enough for both runners to take off. But instead of forcing the throw to third to get the lead runner, Álvarez, in one motion, barehanded the ball, whipped around, and fired it down to second base to nab the go-ahead run.

It’s a testament to the consistency of his work, regardless of the results at the plate.

“He’s able to separate his offense and his defense,” Boles said. “The one thing we’ve noticed is he’s gotten a lot more composed. Last year he was very impatient with himself when he was in Brooklyn. I think now we’re starting to see a guy that understands the big picture a bit more.”

It’s a picture that includes the bright lights of New York City, which only gets closer to becoming a reality with every passing day.

“It’s not easy,” Boles said. “I’m sure there’s pressure on him as the No. 1 prospect in Minor League Baseball. It’s hard to block all the noise, but when he comes to work he’s able to do that.”