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In Francisco Alvarez, Mets Have Another Potential Homegrown Star



DENVER—For more than a decade, the Mets have been one of baseball’s most successful organizations at developing homegrown talent.

Jacob deGrom, Pete Alonso, Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, Dominic Smith and Jeff McNeil were all drafted and brought up through the minors by the Mets. So were Steven Matz, Seth Lugo, Matt Harvey, Robert Gsellman, David Peterson and Chris Flexen. That’s to say nothing of Michael Fulmer, Collin McHugh, John Gant, Justin Dunn, Anthony Kay and current Top 100 prospects Jarred Kelenic and Simeon Woods Richardson, all of whom were drafted by the Mets and found success after being traded to other organizations.

And those are just the domestic successes. The long list of Mets international signees currently on 40-man rosters includes Amed Rosario, Jose Quintana, Juan Lagares, Jeurys Familia, Andres Gimenez, Hansel Robles and Rafael Montero.

That pipeline is far from dry. On Sunday afternoon at Coors Field, Francisco Alvarez showed the Mets have yet another potential homegrown star still on the way.

Alvarez put on the most impressive show of any player during batting practice at the Futures Game, demonstrating eye-opening strength as he pounded long home run after long home run into the thin air of Colorado.

He got only one at-bat in the actual game and hit a screaming liner down the left-field line for a home run, capping the National League’s eight-run outburst in its 8-3 win over the American League. The ball left his bat at 103.7 mph, the seventh-hardest hit ball of the day by an NL player.

He did that all at 19 years old, the youngest player on the NL roster.

“He’s a big boy,” said Cubs outfielder Brennen Davis, who was named MVP after he hit two home runs and went back-to-back with Alvarez in the sixth inning. “What he can do with the bat is really impressive. He has a very bright future.”

Alvarez’s strength is already the stuff of legend. His family owned a construction business in Venezuela, and by age 10 he was handling 90-pound bags of concrete. By age 16, he had such large hands, massive forearms and intense grip strength that teammates nicknamed him “The Thing” after the character from the Fantastic Four comic books.

Word of the young Venezuelan’s promise spread before he’d even played a professional game. During 2019 spring training, scouts scouring the backfields of the Mets complex in Port St. Lucie, Fla. reported the presence of a physical backstop with advanced catch-and-throw skills for his age and jaw-dropping power. Informed he was only 17, most expressed astonishment.

Following his pro debut in the Rookie-levels later that summer, one evaluator summed up just how good Alvarez could be.

“I can’t imagine they (the Mets) have got someone with better upside than that,” the scout said at the time.

Another’s assessment was even more succinct:

“Holy hell.”

As impressive as Alvarez was, few outside of the scouting community got to see it. Rookie-level Kingsport drew an average of 896 fans per game during the 2019 season, when Alvarez played his final 35 games there. He separated himself as the clear-cut best prospect in the Mets system during the 2020 season, when his feats occurred behind closed doors at the alternate training site and instructional league.

The 2021 season represents his coming out party to the general public. He’s hit .296/.427/.547 with nine home runs and 32 RBIs in 50 games between Low-A and High-A, where he is currently four years younger than the league average.

His maturity was apparent in his one Futures Game at-bat. Coming off the bench and facing 24-year-old Marcos Diplan, a Triple-A pitcher, Alvarez fell behind 0-2, fouled off a pair of 95 mph fastballs to stay alive and unloaded on another 95 mph fastball that Diplan left over the inner half of the plate.

Most prospects would have been overwhelmed facing a pitcher five years their senior on a national stage. Then again, Alvarez is not like most prospects.

Every year, the Futures Game is a place where a hyper-talented prospect introduces himself to a national audience. In 2018 in Washington D.C., it was Fernando Tatis Jr. In 2016 in San Diego, it was Alex Bregman.

This year, it was Alvarez. The teenaged catcher is still a long way from New York, and young catchers are among the riskiest prospects of all.

But putting aside the fear and just watching him play, it’s as clear as the Rocky Mountain air that the Mets, if everything goes right, have another homegrown star coming.

“The guy can rake,” said Rockies first baseman Michael Toglia, who also homered. “It’s impressive.”

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