Image credit: Francisco Alvarez (Photo by Bill Mitchell)
This is part of Ben Badler’s 2018-19 International Reviews series chronicling all the moves made by teams on the international market over the prior year. To see all 30 teams, click here.
Total 2018 (Jan. 1 – Dec. 31, 2018) signings: 43
The Mets went through July 2 last year under international director Chris Becerra, who after the season left the organization to join the Red Sox as a special assistant. While the Mets never exceeded their international bonus pool prior to the hard caps, the organization signed Amed Rosario, Andres Gimenez and Ronny Mauricio, among others. The Mets new director of international operations is Rafael Perez, who previously held that title with the organization before leaving to run Major League Baseball’s office in the Dominican Republic after the 2011 season.
Last year, the Mets put most of their international bonus pool money toward two players on July 2, starting with 17-year-old Venezuelan catcher Francisco Alvarez, who trained with Javier Mendoza. Alvarez consistently hit well in games over an extended period of time as an amateur in Venezuela. He’s 5-foot-11, 195 pounds with a stout, blocky build, a physically mature player for his age with strong hands, forearms and legs. Alvarez generates above-average raw power from a compact, explosive swing from the right side. He recognizes pitches well, letting the ball travel deep with the ability to drive the ball with impact the opposite way and to the middle of the field. In amateur games, Alvarez hit well and hit for power. For his body type, Alvarez moves surprisingly well, with fringe-average speed, though that will likely slide backwards. Alvarez will have to prove he can stick behind the plate. He has an above-average arm, but his lateral mobility and receiving need work.
Dominican outfielder Freddy Valdez signed with the Mets for $1.45 million on July 2 after training in the Mejia Top 10 program. He stood out early in the scouting process for the 2018 class as a tall, physical corner outfielder (6-foot-3, 210 pounds) who could hit the ball hard in batting practice. He has big raw power for a 17-year-old and it should develop into a plus tool. While the Mets liked Alvarez’s feel for hitting, scouts from other clubs saw more risk there. He has length to his swing from the right side and an aggressive, pull-conscious approach, so he will have to improve his balance and timing against live pitching to cut down on strikeouts. Valdez is a below-average runner who moves fairly well for his size. There’s a chance Valdez outgrows the outfield and ends up at first base, but his feet move well in the outfield and his throwing has improved to above-average to fit in right field.
In August, the Mets signed 17-year-old Dominican shortstop William Lugo for $475,000. The previous year, Lugo had a stocky 6-foot-1 frame, but he grew to a physical 6-foot-3, 205 pounds before signing. Other clubs were concerned about the length in Lugo’s swing, but the Mets thought he was one of the better hitters in the class with the discipline not to chase much off the plate and an innate ability to barrel balls consistently from the right side. He makes loud contact when he squares it up and could grow into plus power. Lugo’s time at shortstop is likely limited. He could go to third base but might end up as a corner outfielder or a first baseman. Lugo trained with Javier Rodriguez.
Cuban outfielder Gerson Molina signed with the Mets for $175,000 in August. Molina, who turned 23 last month, played sparingly in Serie Nacional for Ciego de Avila, but the Mets like his quick-twitch athleticism and defense in center field with a rangy 6-foot-3, 185-pound frame. Neraldo Catalina is an 18-year-old righthander the Mets signed out of the Dominican Republic for $150,000 on July 2. He has an enormous frame at 6-foot-6, 205 pounds and throws hard, with a low- to mid-90s fastball that reaches 95 mph. His fastball plays up beyond the pure velocity, getting on hitters quickly with good extension out front in his delivery. Catalina complements his fastball with a power slider as well.