Hello there, everyone! Welcome to another year of The 10/90 Scale, a pre-season column where we look at some of the best-case and worst-case scenarios for a particular player at a given position. For the last couple of years, the inimitable Darius Austin took this on for the BP Fantasy Team, but for 2024, you’re stuck with me.
In The 10/90 Scale, we’ll use Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA projections to identify a couple of potential outcomes for each player I discuss. The most common projection numbers you’ll see are the 50th-percentile projections, the middle of the road. But for this column’s purposes, we’ll look at the 90th percentile (a truly great outcome) as well as a 10th percentile (hot garbage outcome) to see where the range of possibilities lands.
Are you interested in exploring PECOTA a little deeper? I’d recommend becoming a subscriber, if you aren’t already. Our Premium subscribers not only get this high-quality fantasy content, but also access to the downloadable PECOTA percentiles spreadsheet. Look up anyone you want! Impress your friends and loved ones! Predict the future with deadly accuracy!
At any rate, my job here is to look at player who may have a little more variance than most, share these potential PECOTA-based outcomes, and discuss where the fantasy potential lies. Since we kick things off here at BP with our week of catchers, and since I’ve got a little more history with New York’s Senior Circuit franchise, I think today’s choice is exceptionally appropriate. Behold, Francisco Alvarez, one of the best young catchers in MLB, with a special emphasis on young. Other hot young backstops like Adley Rutschman, William Contreras, or Yainer Diaz all are entering age-25 seasons or older, but Alvarez will be heading into his age-22 season for 2024.
Of course, with age comes maturity … and often reliability. While Alvarez is likely to see the lion’s share of playing time in Queens this year, he’s unproven and more than a little volatile. His 2023 season was gangbusters to start, but his production fell off considerably as the Mets’ disaster season wore on. With Omar Narvaez (for now) in the fold, he won’t be required to carry the whole catching load coming into 2024, but he will be asked to re-establish himself as the team’s catcher of the future. No pressure! But let’s see what that could look like.
The 90th Percentile
462 PA / 63 R / 26 HR / 72 RBI / 1 SB / .251 AVG / 4.6 WARP
This is near the upper bounds of PECOTA’s projection on Alvarez for 2024. Nearly a five-win player, this version of Alvarez is an all-round star, an All-Star, if you will. His calling card has always been top-end power, and that gets displayed here with 26 dingers in 462 PA. The Mets’ question mark of a lineup probably still limits his R + RBI ceiling, and his lack of speed and contact ability makes 1 SB and a .251 batting average good outcomes in this perfect-world scenario. His WARP skews even higher off the strength of a very good defensive (read: pitch framing) reputation that improves a bit from his 2023. This is the outcome that makes people who talk about the Mets start to have to differentiate between “which Francisco?” when talking about the team’s best player.
Even in this world, Alvarez probably doesn’t unseat Pete Alonso in the heart of the batting order, though maybe he takes up residence in the five slot. But it does show a marked improvement over his 2023 performance, namely because he’s not below league-average as a hitter. In 2023, Alavarez had a DRC+ of 90, mainly due to an inability to reach base. Alvarez had the type of batting average that’s a problem for your fantasy team, and you try and go get a Luis Arraez type simply to counteract. He OBP in general was pretty poor as well, sliding in under the Perez-Elster Line (read: .300) at .284. This PECOTA projection accounts for a lot more contact, and a bit more walks as well.
The shape of this production looks an awful like Cal Raleigh‘s 2023 season, which was a damn fine year. And to give you some perspective, PECOTA’s 90th-percentile projection on Raleigh looks a lot like this line as well. So given that Alvarez is being drafted in NFBC pools around the 147 spot, you could be looking at good-Raleigh production at a slight discount from drafting the Mariners’ backstop, who’s going around a round earlier.
Keep in mind here that, in PECOTA’s eyes, even a high-end outcome doesn’t indicate Alvarez becoming an Adley-lite all-round hitting phenom. The issues with contact are real, and the Mets’ lineup (and construction) don’t support huge numbers in runs and RBI. If you believe in this young catcher’s growth and development, expect him to pop more than a handful of homers, but still be mostly a one-category contributor. There’s more room to grow in dynasty, where you can pencil him in for half a decade, but in redraft, he’s more likely to be a $5 lottery ticket that wins you $20, not $100.
The 10th Percentile
462 PA / 48 R / 16 HR / 53 RBI / 1 SB / .221 AVG / 2.1 WARP
Here’s the low bar for Alvarez to clear … and it’s honestly not that bad. In this situation, Alvarez doesn’t reach base enough to post solid counting stats, and the average falls off a cliff. However, his power still pushes through and he runs into enough to get 16 homers, but the Mets drop him in the order and he doesn’t do much else in terms of fantasy stats. In the real world? Fine. For your fantasy team? Ouch. You could’ve gotten a player in a better situation to punch up those R + RBI numbers, or at least not totally cratered your batting average. This version of Alvarez is droppable, skippable, and missable, and you’d better be ready to slot in an up-and-coming second catcher before your season gets totally out of reach.
In this scenario, you probably had the option of Alvarez or other, similarly drafted-and-valued players like Gabriel Moreno, Bo Naylor, or Logan O’Hoppe … or some of the middle-tier backstops with more years in the league like Sean Murphy or Willson Contreras. Moreno and Contreras bring a lot better batting average to the table, Murphy carries with him the dynamite Atlanta lineup (and all the R and RBI that come with that), Naylor has more overall athleticism and on-base, and O’Hoppe … well, he’s a lot like Alvarez, with more age and injury risk. (I’m fading him a bit compared to the field this year.) But at the 10th-percentile, Alvarez has no saving grace; two handfuls of home runs don’t make up for the putrid average. No matter how poorly he performs, he’s a good bet to get playing time in New York, but you can’t run him out on a weekly basis if he’s struggling to hit big-league breaking stuff to this level.
Given both sides of the equation, I actually see Alvarez as somewhat of a medium-risk, higher-floor catching pickup compared to some others after the top tiers of the market–given his age, how wild is that? He doesn’t have a significant injury history or a serious blocker to playing time, and his defense will keep him in the lineup. He absolutely will run into a dozen or more home runs, even if he doesn’t crack the Mendoza line, and 25 homers is a reasonable projection given what we saw in previous years and PECOTA’s wisdom. If you don’t want to go big at the top of the catching market, I really like pairing Alvarez with an upside play later (Alejandro Kirk, Henry Davis, or even Shea Langeliers if you’re a real sicko) to create the potential for some positive variance without blowing up your budget or draft slot. Just be ready to pick up a few AVG-first types, because even if he has a big breakout, you can’t expect him to put up big numbers there.
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