Major League Baseball
Mets' top prospects Francisco Álvarez, Brett Baty look like stars in training
Major League Baseball

Mets' top prospects Francisco Álvarez, Brett Baty look like stars in training

Updated Mar. 6, 2023 5:10 p.m. ET

Francisco Álvarez has seven red letters etched in all caps across the base of his throat. Those seven letters create two words that influence Álvarez’s day-to-day baseball life:


Álvarez is deeply motivated to become the best in everything he does. He tries to achieve that skyscraping status by setting lofty expectations for himself. At this time last year, Álvarez said his goal was to "make it to the bigs, make it to the bigs." Seven months later, during the New York Mets’ final week of the regular season, Álvarez made his major-league debut. 

When asked what his goal is for this season, Álvarez practically answered before the question was even completed: "Rookie of the Year," he responded, matter-of-factly.


Rather than hoping or believing he'll achieve his goals, Álvarez seems to know or accept that they will, in time, be fulfilled. Doubts do not permeate his mind for long. He doesn’t allow himself to go there because doubts suggest a lack of confidence and faith, and Álvarez is brimming with both.

"I got the tattoo because when I wake up in the morning, I want to be reminded that I view myself as the best," Álvarez said through an interpreter. "Sometimes you wake up in the morning and you don’t feel great and you forget who you are. But with that tattoo, it reminds me I’m great and I feel like the best."

There's star power in how he goes about his business, as well. Álvarez, crouched and wearing several pounds of catching gear, is eager and focused during quick defensive drills, seemingly unbothered by the multiple pairs of eyes keeping a close watch on his progress. During batting practice, Álvarez readies for the pitch with his bat resting on his right shoulder and his weight on his back leg. Then he rocks back, swings through and lets it rip. When he connects, if you’re distracted or your back is turned to the violent swing, the sound that comes off his bat will make you pay attention. The loud pop overpowers the music and threatens a deep drive. Álvarez watches every second of the ball soaring beyond the outfield wall.

Álvarez is lauded by Mets decision-makers for asking questions and being receptive to criticism. He’s outgoing and chatty. He’s hungry to learn more about his craft behind the plate, whether that involves introducing himself to veteran catchers or being a sponge while receiving instructions. Álvarez’s aptitude to learn and sharpen his skills — including striving to complete a full interview in English, his second language — is all part of what he believes will help him be the best.

Álvarez entered his third major-league spring training as the Mets’ top overall prospect. The 21-year-old is furiously knocking on the proverbial door to the big leagues. Last season, he posted an .885 OPS and 136 wRC+ between Double-A and Triple-A before his late-season call-up. His 27 home runs led the Mets’ farm and ranked fourth-highest in the minor leagues among 20-year-old hitters. Though his bat is ahead of his defense and might be major-league-ready, manager Buck Showalter and general manager Billy Eppler have repeatedly said Álvarez will not be called up until his catching abilities are sufficiently developed. Owner Steve Cohen indicated he agreed with that thinking.

"I don't think they focused enough on defense in the minor leagues before," Cohen said recently in Port St. Lucie, Florida. "You’ve got to be a complete ballplayer, and not just half a ballplayer. These things are important to us, but it requires a different approach, a more rigorous approach. And that’s what we're doing."

The Mets are applying that same rigorous approach to Brett Baty, the organization’s No. 2 prospect and possible long-term third baseman. 

While Álvarez continues to refine his craft with team catching instructor Glenn Sherlock, Baty has been paired with Mets bench coach Eric Chavez, third base coach Joey Cora and former Mets captain David Wright to work on his defense. Chavez has spent the past few weeks coaching Baty at the hot corner and Baty said that instruction from a six-time Gold Glove winner has been invaluable. Chavez said he has noticed major improvements in Baty’s footwork, in particular. 

New York is hoping that development will lead to long-term success with renewed confidence in Baty, who just received a longer runway to impress the club. The Mets made it no secret they were seeking a superstar third baseman by agreeing to terms with free-agent Carlos Correa before that deal fell apart. They were also said to be interested in six-time All-Star Manny Machado before he signed a mega-extension with the Padres

Rather than merely being a footnote in the franchise’s history books, Baty, with Correa and Machado off the board, has the opportunity to make an impact for years to come. The Mets’ future third-base job is his for the taking.

For now, veteran third baseman Eduardo Escobar is blocking Baty's path, but the 23-year-old rookie hardly thinks of it that way. Baty has enjoyed getting to know and learning from his big-league teammates ever since his August 2022 call-up. Even though he's set to receive tons of extra playing time when Escobar and the rest of the Mets infield leaves camp to play in the World Baseball Classic, it’s a bittersweet feeling for him.

"It's going to be tough not having them in the clubhouse and not being with the guys," Baty said. "But I am getting more reps, which will be good. I can show everybody what I've been working on this offseason and then get a look by myself over there at third base. It's going to be a good experience, but we're also going to miss them."

Baty, like Álvarez, got just a small taste of the major leagues after his debut last year. He’s determined to get back on that stage, but he understands that decision is out of his hands. What he will do until then is focus on being as prepared as possible. His belief in himself is just as strong as Álvarez’s, if not as flashy. Baty’s quiet confidence and ripe talent translated to a 158 wRC+ between two levels in the minors last year. He tries to stay off social media while depending on his friends and family to stay grounded.

Álvarez, meanwhile, welcomed the limelight of being showcased on Baseball America’s Nov. 2022 edition, aptly titled "Apple Juice" for his potential to lead the Mets’ next young core. His fearless attitude toward pressure suggests he can thrive, not only in MLB but in New York. But no matter how ready he may seem for The Show, the Mets want Álvarez to be much more than their designated hitter. Their plan, for now, is to roll with newly acquired catcher Omar Narváez and backup Tomas Nido.

"We want to wait for the complete package to be there," Eppler said of Álvarez in Port St. Lucie. "If Francisco is on our club or he makes our team or if he shows up, we want to make sure we can catch him because the long-term trajectory of this young man is to be able to catch. We have to be able to satisfy that up here." 

With veteran aces Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander leading the rotation, the team’s reasoning for making sure Álvarez is ready to receive, frame and block is straightforward. But the young backstop isn’t just waiting around to catch one of the most dangerous 1-2 punches in the game; he’s already being proactive. Álvarez recently spoke at length with veteran Robinson Chirinos, who caught Verlander while they played together in Houston. Álvarez learned from Chirinos what Verlander likes on game days, how the right-hander is super focused, where he likes to set up and have the glove and what he likes to call.

"I think it's going to be a tremendous day when we get that opportunity to be a duo," said Álvarez, who is excited to add Verlander to the list of Cy Young winners he has already caught. Last year, Álvarez worked with Scherzer and Jacob deGrom while the aces rehabbed with Triple-A Syracuse.

It’s only a matter of time before the Mets’ top prospect, already believing he’s "the best," plays alongside teammates who have long ago proved they’re the most elite players in the game. Whenever that does happen, just like the sound that comes off Álvarez’s bat, the next wave of Mets players will have our attention.

Deesha Thosar is an MLB writer for FOX Sports. She previously covered the Mets as a beat reporter for the New York Daily News. Follow her on Twitter at @DeeshaThosar.

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