PORT ST. LUCIE — Francisco Alvarez’s bat will ultimately be the biggest factor in his rise through the Mets’ farm system, but the organization would also like to see strides from the 20-year-old catcher behind the plate.
“His defense has progressed how we thought it would and with that there’s places he needs to develop,” Mets director of player development Kevin Howard said Monday. “In terms of his age and what is expected he’s ahead of schedule with all his defense.”
Howard was asked what specifically Alvarez needs to improve.
“I really think it’s the whole thing,” Howard said. “Obviously blocking is in there and receiving to his arm side is the main thing that we’re trying to clean up, some of the strikes he loses. But all and all he is above a kid for his age when you look at the industry and catching.”
Alvarez, the organization’s top prospect — he homered 24 times in 99 games last season between Low-A St. Lucie and High-A Brooklyn — said last week that his goal is to play in the major leagues this season.
“That should be everybody here’s goal,” Howard said. “Trying to get there and that being your goal, and then expecting it and reacting when it doesn’t happen, those are two different things. I think Francisco is very realistic about what actually could happen and I think he is just going to control the things he can control.”
Brett Baty and Mark Vientos are expected to each play the outfield once a week to begin the season as the Mets evaluate both third basemen at other positions. Vientos finished last season at Triple-A Syracuse and Baty at Double-A Binghamton. Both players took reps in the outfield last season.
Howard, who became the Mets’ assistant hitting coach in May after joining the organization to work in player development, said he is happy returning to the role for which he was hired.
“I think we’re all in it to pull for the organization and any way we can help and I think that is what we were trying to do last year,” Howard said. “I do think I am better fit for this role. I think it’s the job I have the most interest in from my previous experiences and kind of the things I have gone through in the past have led me here and I feel like this is where I am supposed to be.”