Mets prospect Francisco Alvarez has a potentially game-changing power bat, and we saw it on display in Double-A and Triple-A last season before Alvarez got a brief taste of the majors toward the end of the year -- blasting his first big league homer (a mammoth shot) and smoking a double off the wall.
While Alvarez's offense is expected to be legit, the Mets have wanted him to refine his defense behind the plate before being ready to rely on him in that role in the majors.
With Alvarez having played all of last season at just 20 years old, that he is not yet a finished product defensively is not a surprise -- and his pitch-framing ability won't matter much (if at all) when MLB goes to an automated strike zone, perhaps as soon as 2024.
There have been some whispers about what Alvarez's long-term position will be, but Mets GM Billy Eppler expects Alvarez to stick behind the dish.
"Yes, I believe he is a catcher," Eppler told Joel Sherman of The New York Post. "Because I have in-house data that shows improvement and strong receiving ability from Double-A, and that it was good from his limited time at Triple-A."
As far as whether Alvarez will make the Opening Day roster, Eppler wouldn't say. He also wouldn't reveal whether he felt Alvarez's bat was ready for the bigs.
"I'm not going to say one way or the other. I wouldn't say if I thought his bat was ready," Eppler told The Post. "I'm going to let time and the process of evaluation organically allow that to happen."
Earlier this month, Alvarez was confident while speaking about his defense and whether he'd make the Opening Day Roster, saying he was "100 percent" sure he'd be on it.
"My defense is ready for the major leagues," Alvarez told Venezuelan journalist César Sequera Ramos in Spanish. "What the Mets asked me to do was improve my English so I could communicate with the entire pitching staff."
Alvarez added that he's been talking to Yadier Molina and Robinson Chirinos about catching, and expected to soon chat with Jose Molina.
"I had questions about catching for a long time," Alvarez said. "Asking Molina I have taken advantage of getting answers. A lot of those questions were about game management and working with a pitching staff."
The Mets' other catchers on the 40-man roster are Omar Narvaez (who signed a two-year deal this offseason that has a player option for 2024) and Tomas Nido, who signed a one-year extension this offseason that bought out what would've been his final season of arbitration in 2024.
But it's hard to see the presence of Nido (and his $1.6 million salary this season and $2.1 million salary in 2024) being an impediment if/when the Mets deem Alvarez ready.
Getting more reps in the minors might benefit Alvarez, but the Mets have a clear need for more offensive punch -- and his bat has a chance to be such a weapon -- that it can be argued that he should be in the Mets' plans from the jump in 2023.
One plan could be to have Alvarez (who needs to continue developing behind the plate and should absolutely not be used this season as a full-time DH) and Narvaez split the starting catcher role, with Nido getting the other starts. On days when Alvarez is not behind the plate, he can be utilized as the DH. It would allow the Mets to have his bat in the lineup more often than not, while easing him into the full-time catching role.