Recent history may be repeating itself for the New York Mets this offseason, and it should be a good thing. The Mets will get questions about how to get offensive improvements from two positions in their lineup, at catcher and at the designated hitter spot.
Among the 30 teams in the majors, Mets catchers ranked 26th with a .569 OPS and 29th with 7 home runs last season, while their designated hitters ranked 19th with a .688 OPS and tied for 21st with 18 home runs.
The Mets need to see improvements from both positions offensively if they want to win the World Series next year, and this leads to an obvious choice for the Mets’ Opening Day lineup next year.
Top Mets prospect Francisco Alvarez should absolutely be in the Opening Day lineup in 2023.
I hearken back to a comparable situation prior to the 2019 season. The Mets had a battle for the first base job in spring training between Dom Smith and Pete Alonso, who clobbered 36 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A the year before, and then-general manager Brodie Van Wagenen vowed to have the 25 best players be on his first Opening Day roster.
Well, how did that turn out? In 2019, Alonso set the all-time rookie single season home run record with 53 home runs on his way to National League Rookie of the Year honors and finished seventh in the league MVP voting.
The Mets will have the same question going into spring training in February, this time about both what catchers the Mets will carry and who will serve as the primary designated hitter.
The catcher situation could be resolved well before February if the Mets trade James McCann or let Tomas Nido walk, in which Alvarez would already be penciled into the Opening Day roster.
The designated hitter job could be one that Alvarez could certainly win outright, and given how much Mets designated hitters struggled last season, it is best for conventional wisdom to say Alvarez represents a massive upgrade himself at that position. The Mets could add someone outside the organization for that role like Joc Pederson as well if Alvarez is behind the plate.
Alvarez hit 27 home runs between Double-A and Triple-A in 2022 alongside one tape-measure blast in the big leagues.
If the Mets learned something from this year’s postseason, it is that out-homering an opponent is a gigantic deal in the playoffs. The Mets did not have that feared slugger to pair up with Pete Alonso to help complete the offense, and it was a reason the Mets did not win the division and get past the Wild Card round in the playoffs, so having more home run power would make the Mets a more formidable foe next year.
Alonso was an offense-first first baseman and still is, and Alvarez is an offense-first catcher and it will remain that way for the near future. Alvarez not only has the advanced batting skills for age 21, he has the maturity to have himself learn and develop how to be a big-league catcher behind the plate, and whoever the other catcher is there to help, he can watch and see the tricks for being successful at that.
The situation for history to repeat is there; now it is time for Billy Eppler and the front office to respond accordingly and give Alvarez and his loud bat a chance to shine come Opening Day at loanDepot Park in Miami on March 30.