Francisco Alvarez, Ronny Mauricio and Brett Baty, MLB.com’s Nos. 1, 2 and 4 Mets prospects respectively, are turning heads with the High-A Brooklyn Cyclones.
Ed Blankmeyer coached at St. John’s for 24 years and saw over 90 players turn pro during his tenure.
Now 20 miles west on the Belt Parkway at Maimonides Park, Blankmeyer is in his first year managing professionals and hoping to help turn a prospect-laden bunch with the Mets’ High-A Brooklyn affiliate into big league stars.
Francisco Alvarez, Ronny Mauricio and Brett Baty, MLB.com’s Nos. 1, 2 and 4 Mets prospects, respectively, are turning heads with the Cyclones. Alvarez and Baty have been selected to represent the organization at the Futures Game on Sunday at Coors Field.
They’ve carved unique paths, but all have something in common — tools of bona fide major leaguers.
“All three have different personalities, but they’re good teammates and good men,” Blankmeyer said. “And, more importantly to me, they have the passion to succeed.
“They’re major league players in our book.”
Jeremy Barnes, the team’s new director of player development initiatives, likes what he’s seen from the trio.
“Those guys have been rock stars,” Barnes said. “It’s really unique to have all of your top guys live up to the expectations. … You feel a lot more confident on my side that they’re going to reach their ceilings — and their ceilings are very high.”
Signed out of Venezuela in 2018, Alvarez, a 5-foot-10, 233-pound catcher, has become an offensive force and been dubbed the “baby bull” by Blankmeyer.
With Mauricio and Baty, Alvarez went to the Mets alternate site in Brooklyn last year and was at this year’s big league spring training in Port St. Lucie. Even without a minor league season last year, Alvarez feels he’s on track.
“You have to catch more than 100 games, and I want to play a full season,” Alvarez said through a team interpreter. “So there wasn’t really a year off. It was just a year of preparation, hard work and getting mentally strong.”
That legwork is paying dividends in 2021. Alvarez, 19, started his first full season with Low-A St. Lucie with a 1.213 OPS. After 15 games, he was elevated to Brooklyn. He’s worked specifically on hitting sliders and fared well against higher-level pitching, blasting seven homers with a .538 slugging percentage entering Wednesday.
One to wear his emotions on his sleeve, Alvarez flung his bat after admiring a go-ahead homer against the Yankees’ Hudson Valley affiliate last month. Alvarez said in hindsight he feels he “disrespected” the Yankees. That reflection, Blankmeyer says, goes hand in hand with the teenager’s “keen insight” and leadership behind the plate. Alvarez added he’s made defensive improvements with catching coordinator Bob Natal.
“It takes time to be a younger catcher with older young men pitching, and they’re starting to trust him,” Blankmeyer said. “We allow him to conduct so many advanced screenings to give his insight on hitters.”
Barnes added that Alvarez is doing all the right things and is already playing above the high expectations the organization set.
“Catchers take a little bit of time to develop and be like what you see in the big leagues,” Barnes said. “And that’s not to say that he’s not going to blow any timeframe or thoughts that we have out of the water because he’s doing that currently. But it’s just continuing to mature and grow.”
On the left side of the infield, Baty’s hitting his stride as another full-season debutante. The third baseman is among the top 10 of qualified High-A East hitters in on-base percentage and OPS, and had seven homers entering Wednesday.
After taking reps with Pete Alonso and Michael Conforto this spring, he’s thrilled to have his own potent middle of the order.
“It’s awesome to have me, Mauricio and Alvarez in there together,” said Baty, the team’s 2019 first-round draft pick, “just knowing we have each other’s backs in the lineup and that we can all play together.”
Improved athleticism led Baty, 21, to play a game in left field on June 26 for the first time since one such appearance at Lake Travis High School. According to Barnes, the organization wants to see increased versatility out of its talented young players without pigeonholing them into one position. They still have confidence in Baty at third, but want to see if they can “get greedy” and add more to his game as he rises through the ranks.
They have approached other players in the organization, including the No. 8 prospect, third baseman Mark Vientos, about playing other positions.
“We’re doing our due diligence,” Barnes said of Baty. “So that way in a couple of years when he’s ready to get called up for his bat or his defensive capabilities, he’s in a little more versatile role and can actually serve the big league club even better.”
There’s no specific timeline on how often Baty will be in the outfield, but he’ll be getting increased reps in left as the season goes on. Already noted for a strong arm, Baty impressed in his first nine innings in left.
“He showed it [his arm strength] out there in left field and it was elite,” Barnes said “It was pretty legit.”
With Baty knocking on the door of Double-A, Barnes said there’s a good chance he gets the move up to Binghamton “in the near future.” He also didn’t rule out Alvarez or Mauricio getting time with the Rumble Ponies this year, saying if they feel if it’s best for the players and the organization, they’ll make the move.
Mauricio, entrenched at shortstop after signing out of the Dominican Republic in 2017, has translated raw power into game power he says by adding some weight. Listed at 166 pounds when he signed with the Mets, he’s now bulked up to 211. The 20-year-old switch hitter had connected on eight homers — six from the left side — entering Wednesday, topping his career total (7) entering 2021.
The average and on-base percentage have not come around yet with both sitting under .300. Barnes noted the power “is there in spades,” but Mauricio still is working on his decision-making and consistency.
“Right now I’m working on my strike zone,” Mauricio said through the team interpreter. “But I feel like I’m getting better in every aspect of the game. My power has come from focusing more on my body.”
He’s practiced with bench coach Mariano Duncan and infield coordinator Tim Teufel on his footwork at short. Early grades for the 6-3 infielder are strong.
“I think he’s a big league shortstop,” Blankmeyer said.
Sometimes, prospect ranking doesn’t always equal success. But for this group, Blankmeyer said they have the right mixture of ingredients.
“I think the world of those three kids,” he said. “Sometimes you get guys that are talented and lazy or talented and have a bad attitude. No red flags with these guys.”
This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Andrew Battifarano