Francisco Álvarez Needs To Wait
James McCann is out with an injury, and we have no idea how long it will be. Chances are it may effectively be a season ending injury. That leaves the Mets with Tomás Nido. As we have seen with Nido, he does his job behind the plate, and as a result, the New York Mets have been comfortable using him as their main catcher.
The problem is they haven’t been as comfortable with Patrick Mazeika. That is understandable with Mazeika having a 41 wRC+. With him being an average framer, carrying that bat is a problem. Yes, it is a small sample size, but it’s essentially what Mazeika has been, i.e. a poor man’s version of Josh Thole.
When Mazeika is looked upon as a stopgap, he has been more than fine. However, the Mets need more than that now. After all, the Mets are looking for a catching tandem to take them through what is now a tight NL East race and potentially into the postseason.
Seeing what he did in Double-A, the natural impetus is to renew the calls for Francisco Álvarez. There are many, many good reasons to consider it.
Max Scherzer was impressed with his work behind the plate during his rehab start. There have been more and more people noting the significant improvement he has made. Arguably, the bat is already there, and many Mets fans are looking upon him as being able to have the same type of impact Michael Conforto had in 2015.
None of this should be dismissed outright. It is shouldn’t be dismissed he is right not viewed as the best prospect in the minor leagues. With him, everyone sees a future star, and we have already seen Keith Law of The Athletic drop a Mike Piazza comp on Álvarez with no one thinking it was ridiculous.
That all said, in Triple-A, you see some cause for patience. Over his first five games, he is hitting just .125/.286/.188 with a double and two RBI. He has struck out five times in 21 plate appearances (not bad at all) while drawing two walks.
Yes, this is an extremely small sample size to which no conclusions should be drawn. Rather, we need to use it for perspective.
Álvarez is a 20 year old catcher. He was the youngest player in the Eastern League, and he’s the youngest player in Triple-A. In fact, he’s 6.5 years younger than league average. That will be more pronounced at the Major League level.
That may be a factor why he is not hitting . . . yet. Ultimately, we know he will hit at this level. To that point, just wait for it. It could be a week, month, or in 2023. The Mets don’t know. Whatever the case, they don’t want to rush a player who is not quite hitting yet in Triple-A and then tell him to go out there and hit Major League pitching.
We’ve seen this mistake in the past. The Mets rushed Mike Pelfrey in 2006 because they needed pitching. He wasn’t ready, and you can argue, to a certain extent, it hampered Pelfrey’s development. He became a viable Major League pitcher but nothing more.
We saw the Chicago Cubs do it with Kyle Schwarber in 2015. They needed the bat, so they took him out from behind the plate. Schwarber has hit, but he went from horrendous LF to can’t play first to a DH.
The Mets won’t play Álvarez in the outfield, but rushing him before he is absolutely ready to catch Major League pitching can have negative consequences on a catcher’s career. After all, look at Gary Sanchez‘s career. He went from future superstar to traded to the Minnesota Twins for a Twins salary dump just so Sanchez can be a bad DH.
That’s the Mets current problem. They have a phenom everyone thinks will be an All-Star or more. They see a player who fits a need RIGHT NOW for a team capable of winning a World Series. Yes, if Álvarez is ready, he puts this team over the top, but when he’s not hitting in Triple-A, the risk is too great.
No, the Mets have to hold out for now. At a minimum, let Álvarez get hot in Triple-A, and then, lets have that conversation. Unfortunately, we just cant’ have it right now.