Mets minor-league catcher Francisco Alvarez talks to the press during...

Mets minor-league catcher Francisco Alvarez talks to the press during practice at the Clover Park baseball fields in Port St. Lucie, Florida, on Friday. Credit: Octavio Jones

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Francisco Alvarez, the Mets’ top prospect, is 20 years old and a veteran of fewer than 100 professional games at catcher, including none in the upper minor-leagues.

But he is blunt about his aspirations for 2022.

"Make it to the bigs," Alvarez said through an interpreter Friday morning. "That’s the goal. This year."

That sort of rapid ascension appears unlikely, but such confidence — along with his powerful bat — is one reason the Mets really like Alvarez, who ranks among the top 20 prospects on most top-100 lists. He is likely to open the season with Double-A Binghamton, playing for ex-major-leaguer Reid Brignac, who had him briefly in Low-A St. Lucie last year.

Because Alvarez is not on the 40-man roster, he is eligible to attend the Mets’ minor-league mini-camp, which opens this weekend, the organization eager to see their young players while the lockout prohibits them from working with or even speaking to the major-leaguers.

That arrangement has allowed new manager Buck Showalter to catch a glimpse of the Mets’ next Next Big Thing.

"He’s coming. At that young age, to be at the development that he’s at, that’s exciting for all of us," Showalter said. "He’s got a unique skill set. The separator with catchers a lot of times is, what kind of offensive impact can they have?"

Alvarez’s offensive impact projects to be significant. Last year, playing his first full pro season at 19, mostly with High-A Brooklyn, he hit 24 home runs and had a .272/.388/.554 slash line. His defensive abilities are more of a question mark — he identified working on his receiving stance and blocking pitches as a top priority — but he can definitely hit. Last spring training, he walloped an opposite-field homer off Jacob deGrom during live batting practice.

"That’s something I will never forget," Alvarez said. "I’ve been working on my body [and] crushing the weight room a lot and working on my defense and in general everything because I like to compete."

In 2021, he caught 59 games and made 38 starts at DH. He expects that split to tilt toward more time behind the plate in 2022.

By the end, Alvarez hopes, he’ll be doing that in the majors.

"It’s not my decision," he said, "but I’m going to work hard so that whenever the time comes, I’m ready."


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