Can Francisco Alvarez Be Juan Soto Or Miguel Cabrera
Back in 2015, nearly everyone was begging Sandy Alderson to call-up Michael Conforto to help a floundering New York Mets offense. Alderson was stubborn in his not being aggressive with prospects until he couldn’t be anymore. Alderson’s concerns were proven unfounded as Conforto had a 133 wRC+ and a 9 DRS in left field.
In reality, some prospects are just Major League ready much earlier than others, and they don’t necessarily need the reps at the upper levels of the minors. As we saw with the Mets, just allowing your best talent to play at the Major League level can pay dividends as Conforto was an important piece of a Mets team which won the 2015 National League pennant.
That’s not something unique to the Mets. In 2013, the then Florida Marlins needed offensive help, so they aggressively called-up Miguel Cabrera who had only played 69 games in Double-A. Cabrera immediately showed he was ready posting a 106 wRC+. He would hit four homers that postseason including one off Roger Clemens in Game 4 of the World Series.
In 2018, the Washington Nationals needed an outfielder, so they called up Juan Soto who had played just eight Double-A games. Like Conforto and Cabrera before him, Soto was ready posting a 146 wRC+. The Nationals would miss the postseason that year, but the following year, Soto posted the second highest WAR among position players on a team who would win the World Series.
That brings us to Francisco Alvarez.
When Alvarez arrived at Spring Training, he declared his goal was to make the Majors this season. That certainly seemed aggressive for a 20 year old player who has yet to play at the Double-A level. Then again, Alvarez is not like just any other minor leaguer. That was very clear when Alvarez hit a monster home run in Spring Training which impressed even Buck Showalter, who has been around the game as long as anyone:
ALL THE ANGLES OF FRANCISCO ÁLVAREZ'S MOONSHOT pic.twitter.com/hkshf7cDiB
— SNY (@SNYtv) March 25, 2022
That was a 98.7 MPH fastball Alvarez hit 441 feet to the Clover Field scoreboard. As noted by MMO‘s Mathew Brownstein, since the inception of StatCast, “ only 14 players have hit a HR at least 440 feet off a FB that was 98+ mph with an exit velocity of 108+ mph.” That puts Alvarez in a group of players which include Aaron Judge and Bryce Harper.
With Harper, we should note he moved out from behind the plate when drafted in an attempt to make it to the majors quicker. Harper would make his MLB debut when he was 19, just one year older than Alvarez would be during the 2022 season.
That’s the sticking point with Alvarez. His bat is there, but it is going to be his ability to catch which will be what allows the Mets to decide to bring him to the majors or keep him in the minors for further development. On that point, Alvarez has made significant strides, and his framing has been much improved this Spring:
Some Francisco Álvarez framing highlights from last night.
— Jacob Resnick (@Jacob_Resnick) March 23, 2022
One other note here with Alvarez is the Mets are not in a great position at catcher. James McCann had a down year at and behind the plate. Tomas Nido is an elite backstop, but his bat is still lacking. Patrick Mazeika is fine depth, but like Nido, he is not much of a hitter.
Should McCann falter or suffer an injury, there is going to be a clear path for Alvarez to get to the majors in short order. Ultimately, his ability to get there is going to be dictated by his continued development as a catcher as well as Alderson and the front office being willing to take the risk like they did in 2015. If everything aligns, we may well see Alvarez become an important piece for a Mets team who can contend for a World Series.