Francisco Alvarez’s growth outweighs DH value

PORT ST. LUCIE — Francisco Alvarez could win a spot on the Mets’ roster based on his hitting alone, but it would take an unusual circumstance, according to general manager Billy Eppler.

The rookie 21-year-old catcher, who is behind Omar Narvaez and Tomas Nido on the depth chart, will focus during spring training on his receiving skills and becoming comfortable with the club’s starting pitchers. But Eppler is against the idea of carrying Alvarez and his potentially potent right-handed bat in a full-time DH role.

The exception would be if Alvarez got hurt and couldn’t catch.

“We always put a caveat on things, an asterisk, that if circumstances present themselves and for some reason something that happened and Francisco couldn’t catch and would not be able to catch for the rest of the season for some reason,” Eppler said Saturday. “But that is just hypothetical. I’m just putting that qualifier out there for everybody.”

The Mets brought Alvarez to the major leagues for the final week of the regular season last year (and kept him on the NL wild-card series roster) because of his offensive potential. But now, his long-term development outweighs any potential short-term gain.

Tomas Nido (right) talks with Francisco Alvarez during a spring training practice.
Tomas Nido (right) talks with Francisco Alvarez during a spring training practice.

“We want to wait for the complete package to be there,” Eppler said.

As much as the Mets want to receive a long look at Ronny Mauricio this spring, team brass is also cognizant of the fact the shortstop has 744 made plate appearances (including the Dominican Winter League) since last season began.

“He’s a big, strong, kid, but we’re aware of the fuel tank right now,” Eppler said.

Though Francisco Lindor has shortstop locked up long-term, the Mets plan to keep Mauricio at the position until he is closer to cracking the major league roster. Eppler said game situations might arise that would necessitate sliding Mauricio to third base. Left unsaid is that Mauricio’s trade value might be highest as a shortstop.

Mauricio, 21, was the MVP of the Dominican Winter League after spending last season at Double-A Binghamton, where he owned a .259/.296/.472 slash line with 26 homers and 89 RBIs.

The Mets, according to Eppler, were informed by the commissioner’s office that Khalil Lee may report to minor league camp on March 2.

The outfielder is under investigation by MLB following claims by a former girlfriend that Lee assaulted her last May while he was a player at Triple-A Syracuse. Lee cleared waivers last week after he was designated for assignment by the Mets.

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