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Mets minor-league catcher Francisco Alvarez lights it up in MLB Futures Game

Francisco Alvarez #30 of National League Futures Team

Francisco Alvarez #30 of National League Futures Team smiles as he rounds the bases after a solo home run against the American League Futures Team at Coors Field on July 11, 2021 in Denver, Colorado.  Credit: Getty Images/Dustin Bradford

DENVER — Everyone at Coors Field was talking about Francisco Alvarez’s fireworks display as he swatted balls around Coors Field before Sunday’s Futures Game.

But the Mets’ powerfully built catching prospect, at a stocky 5-10, 233 pounds, saved one rocket for when it counted, launching a solo homer to leftfield off the Orioles’ Marcos Diplan in the sixth inning during the NL squad’s 8-3 victory over the AL.

"He’s a big boy," said the Cubs’ Brennen Davis, who hit two homers — including back- to-back with Alvarez — to earn MVP honors. "What he can do with a bat is quite impressive. He has a very bright future."

Alvarez’s present isn’t too bad, either. He smashed his way out of Low-A St. Lucie earlier this season by hitting .417 (20-for-48) with a 1.213 OPS in his first 15 games. Now the slugging catcher is batting .243 through 35 games for Brooklyn. He has seven homers, perhaps none more memorable than the go-ahead blast and accompanying bat flip last month that created a viral video sensation.

 

Alvarez, who at 19 is the youngest member of the Brooklyn squad, got fired up June 12 when he put the Cyclones ahead in the bottom of the eighth. He watched the ball sail over the wall, glanced at his teammates in disbelief, then tossed the bat in the air with both hands before trotting to first.

While bat flips have become more acceptable these days as the traditionalists bow to the "Let the Kids Play" crowd, even he believes he might have gone a little overboard.

"It was something that caught me up in the moment," Alvarez said Sunday through an interpreter. "But watching it back, I did feel like I kind of disrespected the game a little bit, so I do feel like I need to respect the game a little bit more in those situations."

He should have plenty more of those chances. And he thinks he’s just warming up.

"I feel like I’m going to have a better second half," Alvarez said. "Hitting-wise, I haven’t been doing everything I’ve wanted to do, so there’s just some tweaks that I need to make to my swing, my approach, to better those numbers in the second half."

Alvarez was joined on the NL Futures squad by fellow Mets prospect Brett Baty, now his former Brooklyn teammate after Saturday’s promotion to Double-A Binghamton.

Can Flushing be far behind?

"Everyone’s always said once you get to Double-A, you’re one phone call away from the big leagues," said Baty, who went 0-for-2 Sunday. "So I know that’s really close. I’m just looking forward to getting up there and starting with those guys."

For now, "those guys" are the Rumble Ponies. One step at a time, of course. But seeing Baty in this environment, surrounded by MLB’s next generation of stars, brings back memories of another Mets prospect who once was in the same scenario and soon jumped Triple-A altogether.

That was Michael Conforto, who shined in the 2015 Futures Game at Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park and was promoted two weeks later to help inject some life into a moribund Mets offense.

Baty, 21, hasn’t even seen a pitch at Double-A yet, so it’s not the same fast-track scenario. But the way scouts rave about his plate maturity, he could climb the ladder fairly quickly after hitting .309 with 14 doubles, seven homers and 34 RBIs through 51 games for Class A Brooklyn.

"I feel like my plate discipline is pretty good," said Baty, the 12th overall pick in the 2019 draft. "I just need to work on pitch recognition earlier and stuff like that. That’s kind of my biggest focus right now."

Another reason to be bullish on Baty: He plays a position that is one of the Mets’ greatest needs. Third base has rotated between a number of players, with none of them viewed as longer-term solutions.

"I feel like I have the arm strength to stick over there," Baty said. "I just need to work on my lateral quickness."

Either way, Baty has some catching up to do. The Mets were able to salvage a 60-game season in the midst of the pandemic, but top prospects such as Baty were not as fortunate when it came to their summer development. Instead of playing a minor-league schedule, Baty was relegated to the alternate site in Brooklyn, where the Mets’ reserves were involved in what amounted to an endless series of intrasquad scrimmages.

"It was super-tough last year to not have a full season," Baty said. "But I just tried to study my craft and do baseball stuff. It was very strange. I was just working out and practicing all the time."

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