Not many catchers can hit.
Significantly fewer can hit immediately as young players, as catchers are generally tasked with mastering their own pitching staffs before they figure out opposing pitching.
If there is anyone who can relate with what Francisco Alvarez is doing, it is the last Mets catcher to generate as much excitement.
Mike Piazza has noticed the Mets’ emerging young star behind the plate.
“I think from what I’ve seen [of Alvarez, he is] a very exciting hitter and hope he continues his hot pace,” Piazza said in a text message Tuesday afternoon. “He is coming up with clutch HRs, and that is a great sign.”
Alvarez, at 21 years old, entered a series opener against the Phillies at Citi Field with a 1.087 OPS this month, which was easily the best by any catcher in the span.
A kid nicknamed “El Troll” has clubbed seven of his eight home runs in May, quickly living up to the larger-than-life billing. The two-way slugger had been the No. 1 prospect in all of baseball.
Piazza, a 62nd-round pick in 1988, arrived with the Dodgers with less fanfare but quickly established himself.
After a brief, 21-game debut in 1992, Piazza was an All-Star and Rookie of the Year in 1993, when he blasted 35 home runs as a 24-year-old.
“The big test,” said Piazza, who is in Venice, Italy, to see his brother get married, “will be when he goes around the league a few times and pitchers start adjusting.”
If Alvarez can continue making adjustments, his value as a big-hitting catcher would be immense.
The average MLB catcher entered play Tuesday with a .690 OPS, the worst among any position group.
Alvarez entered play with an .885 OPS that included a slow few weeks in April as he became accustomed to major league pitching.
It is not the hitting tool that Piazza — who rode a powerful bat to a Hall of Fame career, including eight great years in Queens — is most valuing. Alvarez has impressed defensively and earned plenty of compliments from a Mets staff with multiple future Hall of Famers.
Alvarez entered play rated the fifth-best framer — turning borderline pitches into strikes — in the game.
“He should really concentrate on his catching and be a solid receiver for the staff,” Piazza said of Alvarez, who was on the field early and taking ground balls from infield coach Joey Cora, “even if he is not swinging [as] well as he is now.”
The way Alvarez is swinging, though, has bumped him all the way up in the Mets’ lineup.
Buck Showalter said he does not believe Alvarez will continue hitting second, as he did for a second straight game Tuesday.
The Mets manager cited Starling Marte, who entered play 5-for-16 in his past four games, as beginning to make a case to rise back up the order, and Jeff McNeil (who batted seventh against lefty Ranger Suarez) warrants a higher spot against righties.
Still, Alvarez’s bat has justified the climb up the order after he had consistently batted ninth previously.
“I think Francisco has a chance to be a force in a lot of different spots right now in our lineup,” Showalter said.
There was wonder as recently as a week ago regarding what the Mets would do when all of their catchers are healthy.
Tomas Nido has returned, which prompted Gary Sanchez to be cut, but Nido has not received a start in his five games since being activated.
The Mets will have another decision to make when Omar Narvaez, who can be activated June 6, returns from a left calf strain.
It is possible they decide to carry three catchers.
It is now less plausible they option Alvarez, who is hitting like a catcher the Mets haven’t seen since 2005.
“Wish him the best,” Piazza said.