Mets hope top prospect Francisco Alvarez can be catcher of the future

Part 2 in a series on the Mets’ top prospects.

The Mets made two significant investments in the summer of 2018.

The first was drafting Jarred Kelenic in the first round of that year’s amateur draft in June and later signing him to a $4.5 million deal.

The next came in July, when they spent $2.7 million to sign catcher Francisco Alvarez as an international free agent out of Venezuela.

The international bonus was the highest ever given out by the Mets, surpassing the $2.1 million shortstop Ronny Mauricio received in 2017.

Mauricio is now considered the Mets’ top prospect.

Kelenic, though, became the centerpiece of the deal with Seattle that brought Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz to Queens prior to the 2019 season. While Cano and Diaz underperformed in their first season with the Mets, Kelenic impressed at three levels in the Mariners’ farm system, ending the year at Double-A.

Alvarez, 18, is more than two years younger than Kelenic and has yet to play a full professional season, but has given the Mets reason to believe they may have another upper-level prospect.

Francisco Alvarez
Francisco AlvarezAP

They could certainly use one — or more — especially from the international market. And Alvarez has shown considerable promise for an organization that is starved for talent at the position.

They are still looking for their next Jose Reyes — their last international signee to become an All-Star with the Mets.

The jury is still out on Amed Rosario, who signed for $1.75 million in 2012, as well as Mauricio, who spent last season with Class-A Columbia.

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In his first season in pro ball, Alvarez quickly moved from the Gulf Coast League to Class-A Kingsport and showed promise. In 35 games in the Appalachian League, Alvarez — then just 17 — had an OPS of .820 over 131 plate appearances.

And while he’s not a natural behind the plate, an NL scout who saw him play at Kingsport called him “serviceable defensively.”

“For a kid with his build, you look to see if he can move around,” the scout said of Alvarez, listed at 5-foot-11 and 220 pounds. “He seems to have good instincts back there and had some agility, but he’s far from a finished product.”

What stands out the most about Alvarez is his offense.

“That’s the reason he’s the prospect he is,” the scout said. “He’s strong and quick with the bat.”

With the sport still shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Alvarez is just one of many who will lose developmental time — though the scout said he was already advanced for his age.

But that still leaves Alvarez likely at least three years from any realistic chance of helping in the majors.

By then, perhaps the Mets will have solved their catching issues.

J.T. Realmuto, a trade target of general manager Brodie Van Wagenen’s before last season, will be a free agent following this season and the Mets have contracts coming off the books — but it’s unclear what the financial landscape will look like when the sport resumes.

Still, as The Post’s Mike Puma reported recently, the Mets’ search for a catcher has continued since Mike Piazza’s departure following the 2005 season.

There is a chance they could target a collegiate catcher in next month’s shortened amateur draft, but they will no doubt keep a close eye on Alvarez to see if he can fulfill his potential.

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