Francisco Alvarez’s offensive spark puts him in All-Star Game conversation

Tribune Content Agency

Voting for the 2023 MLB All-Star Game has officially opened and while Pete Alonso and Brandon Nimmo are early favorites, Mets rookie catcher Francisco Alvarez is also putting himself in the All-Star conversation.

The 21-year-old has sparked a Mets’ offense that looked listless and, at times, lifeless only a month ago. The Mets desperately needed someone to drive in runners and Alvarez has done exactly that. His eight home runs are tied for the third-most out of all qualified rookies and his 19 RBI are tied for 10th.

The Mets always knew they had something special in the Venezuelan backstop, but they weren’t expecting an offensive outburst like this in 2023. He started the season in Triple-A and likely would have stayed there had Omar Narvaez not gotten injured.

“It’s not like it’s out of the realm of possibilities that he has that skill to be considered there, but we might not have thought that it was going to be this year, but maybe next year” manager Buck Showalter said Wednesday at Citi Field before the Mets played the second game of a three-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies. “Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Would it have been better if everybody had been healthy and our depth was such? I don’t know. I think we were probably thinking it might be next year. But knowing him and listening to everybody that I respected talk about him, it doesn’t surprise anybody.”

It wasn’t an easy start for Alvarez. He hit just .194 with an RBI and a home run in April. Behind the plate, he struggled to throw out runners. The signs were always there, like his exit velocity, but he struck out in some big moments.

Showalter was careful to shield him from criticism, knowing that he was in a tough spot. Fans saw him as a savior and as the Mets’ top prospect, there was pressure to produce. He worked with the hitting coaches to shorten his swing and improve his timing.

Once the calendar turned, he suddenly turned into a veteran.

“He’s kind of run with the opportunity,” Showalter said. “Two or three weeks ago, people were talking about him in a different way, and now they’re talking about him real positive. I try to keep that in mind with the ebb and flow of how people are looked at throughout a season.”

Jeff McNeil, Brett Baty, Francisco Lindor, Mark Canha, Starling Marte and Daniel Vogelbach joined Alvarez, Alonso and Nimmo on the ballot for the first round of voting. Phase 1 runs from May 31-June 22. The players with the most votes in each of the two leagues will automatically be named starters.

The pitchers and reserves for both squads will be determined by player ballots and the commissioner’s office. All-Star rosters will be announced at 5:30 p.m. ET on ESPN on Sunday, July 2.

Alonso leads the league in home runs with 20 and Nimmo has been the Mets’ consistent offensive producer and showcased elite defense in center field this season.

“He’s one of those guys — we have a lot of them on the team — that sees something that they may not be as good as they’re capable of being and they just attack it,” Showalter said. “It takes somebody who is very team-oriented to go out there and work on the things that might keep you from being a complete player. Nim works hard at it…

“You’re seeing a guy kind of come into his own as a hitter and just a baseball player. That’s one of the reasons why we trusted him with the contract.”


Narvaez will catch nine innings with Triple-A Syracuse Wednesday night. He’s still on track to be activated June 6, which means the Mets could have to carry three catchers temporarily unless they’re willing to risk losing Tomas Nido on waivers. Nido doesn’t have options, but the homegrown backstop is trusted by the Mets’ pitching staff. Narvaez was signed as a precautionary measure to prevent the club from having to rush the development of Alvarez.

Left-hander Jose Quintana continues to work toward a return from bone graft surgery. The Mets are hoping he’ll be able to return before the All-Star break, but caution that he is still “in spring training” when it comes to his progression.