Francisco Alvarez, the Mets’ brand-new catcher, is causing a wave of excitement at Citi Field, where he “looks” like he belongs.
For Francisco Alvarez, the defining moment of his brief career as the Mets catcher came Friday night during the climax of a game the Mets had to have when, without looking into the dugout, he called time and strolled to the mound to meet David Robertson.
Robertson had been called on for a six-out save by Buck Showalter to protect a one-run lead against the Washington Nationals. Exceeding the 30-pitch mark, Robertson was noticeably faltering, needing a breather.
Francisco Alvarez, barely 21, reaches the mound and puts his arm around the shoulders of 38-year-old Roberton, a veteran of fifteen seasons in the big leagues, and he keeps his arm there as if to suggest, “Don’t worry, we got this.”
Francisco Alvarez: He’s Got That “Look”
Every once in a while, a player arrives on the major league scene, and from the moment he steps on the field, he “looks” like he belongs there. It’s not swagger, but you can see it mostly in his eyes and how he carries himself.
Francisco Alvarez has that “look.” So does Anthony Volpe, the rising star of the New York Yankees, as did Pete Alonso years ago.
Before Opening Day, much to the chagrin of their fan base and some in the media, the Mets decided that Alvarez needed more seasoning, especially regarding his catching skills. So, they sent him to Triple-A Syracuse instead of taking him North with the team.
However, Francisco Álvarez was recalled after the Mets announced their regular catcher Omar Narváez’s injury would sideline him for eight weeks.
So far, Showalter and the Mets are cautious with Alvarez and appear resistant to naming him as their everyday catcher. But more apparent is that Showalter is being asked daily, “Is Alvarez in your lineup tonight?”
The numbers aren’t there for Francisco Alvarez quite yet (.231 BA, .275 OBA, and .691 OPS), but the three home runs, including two in the same game, indicate that Baseball Prospectus and others are not off-base in naming Alvarez the Mets number one prospect.
Mets: The End Of An Arduous Search
Since the days of yore and Gary Carter and Mike Piazza, the Mets have been searching wide for a catcher who fits the bill as someone who can handle a pitching staff and provide some punch in their lineup.
Highly touted Travis d’Arnaud came close, but the Mets lost patience with him due to constant injuries, and he eventually wound up with the Atlanta Braves.
Nothing is written in stone, and there are no guarantees in baseball. Still, Francisco Alvarez will be given a full opportunity as the Mets’ regular catcher for the next six years until Alvarez reaches free-agent status in 2029.
Francisco Alvarez: So Much To Learn
According to a report, the Mets have asked him to improve his English to better communicate with pitchers. So far, Alvarez, a native Venezuelan, can speak English in casual conversations, but he relies on an interpreter for interviews.
While Álvarez’s most significant asset will be his offensive prowess, he knows he must improve defensively to reach his full potential. To do so, Álvarez revealed he’s been getting advice from long-time catchers Robinson Chirinos and Yadier Molina and soon plans to speak with José Molina.
Even so, Alvarez is getting high marks for his catching proficiency of late, especially regarding his framing of pitches that can result in “stealing” a strike now and then.
The “frame” to remember is the image of Alvarez arriving at the mound Friday night, pushing his mask up, raising his eyes to meet those of David Robertson, and just “being there” when a teammate needed a lift and a minute to regroup.
For a 21-year-old to appear in his comfort zone like that, the Mets must be thrilled about the future for Francisco Alvarez, their team, and the end of an exhausting search for a permanent major league catcher.