Mets call up No. 1 prospect in baseball

September 30th, 2022

NEW YORK -- Francisco Álvarez, a 20-year-old power-hitting prodigy who has drawn Mike Piazza comparisons and currently ranks as MLB Pipeline’s No. 1 prospect, is about to debut amidst some of the highest stakes imaginable.

The Mets called up Álvarez up before their series opener Friday in Atlanta, giving the club a potential power boost before the biggest series of the year. Álvarez is batting seventh as the designated hitter.

Álvarez just wrapped up his first season in the upper Minors, batting .260/.374/.511 with 27 home runs over 112 games split between Double-A Binghamton and Triple-A Syracuse.

In the Majors, Álvarez offers a potential DH solution for a team that has received little production from that position. Relying mostly on various combinations of Robinson Canó, Dominic Smith, J.D. Davis, Daniel Vogelbach and Darin Ruf throughout the summer, the Mets rank 18th in the Majors in DH OPS. A source said that Álvarez will receive most of his reps at DH.

That doesn’t necessarily mean Álvarez will become the everyday option with six games remaining in the regular season, but his power potential is nonetheless tantalizing; that same team official indicated that Álvarez is not coming up to sit on the bench. As the youngest player at Triple-A for most of the late summer, Álvarez hit six doubles and nine homers in 45 games at that level.

It’s unlikely that Álvarez will see much if any time behind the plate, given the difficulty of learning a pitching staff on short notice. The Mets have been pleased with the defensive play of catchers James McCann and Tomás Nido, despite that unit’s offensive output. Mets catchers have produced a .559 OPS on the season, which ranks 26th in MLB.

Right now, the Mets -- who lead the second-place Braves by one game in the NL East -- are far more interested in Álvarez’s bat than his glove, knowing if he does shine over the final six games of the season, he is eligible to make the Mets’ playoff roster. All players who were in the organization on Sept. 1 are eligible, provided the team can clear space by maneuvering players who are on the injured list. The Mets have multiple such candidates, making Álvarez an October option.

It has been a rapid rise for Álvarez, a Venezuelan native who rated as MLB Pipeline’s No. 13 international prospect during the 2018-19 signing period before landing with the Mets for $2.7 million. Upon signing, Álvarez rocketed up the organizational ladder, spending time at the Mets’ alternate site in 2020 and producing a .941 OPS the following season at two Class A affiliates. He began this year as MLB Pipeline’s 10th-ranked prospect. By late July, Álvarez topped the list.

“He knows he’s talented, and he knows what he wants,” Syracuse manager Kevin Boles said recently. “But he also has the right attitude and work ethic to get that done.”

It’s possible that Álvarez would have debuted sooner if not for an ankle injury that sidelined him for three weeks in September. After receiving multiple opinions from doctors regarding a loose body in his right ankle, Álvarez ultimately decided against surgery and resumed his season at Syracuse. He hit .395/.519/.651 with three home runs over his final 12 games.

Now, Álvarez is in the big leagues with a chance to help send the Mets to their first NL East title since 2015. The future, for him and the Mets, starts now.