Big Hype Prospects: Alvarez, Baty, Crow-Armstrong, Langeliers, Bello

Julio Rodriguez is on the verge of a massive contract extension. Who will be the next prospect to ink a mega-deal? Today’s Big Hype Prospects won’t answer that question, but it’s possible we’ll discuss them all the same.

Five Big Hype Prospects

Francisco Alvarez, 20, C, NYM (AAA)
141 PA, 6 HR, .180/.340/.378

Despite the triumphant return of Jacob deGrom, the Mets divisional aspirations are endangered. Their once dominant lead over the Braves has dwindled to just two games. The club has received exactly 0.0 WAR from their catchers. Alvarez, whose combination of discipline and rare raw power can lead to some irresponsible comps (like former Met Mike Piazza), has held his own at Triple-A. The low batting average is the result of an unfortunate .209 BABIP. Low BABIPs in the minors can be symptomatic of a flaw. Sometimes, they’re just bad luck over a small sample. Alvarez had similar issues in High-A last season (.260 BABIP) so it’s possible his plodding speed and pull-heavy approach might yield an all-or-nothing slugger, especially early in his career. Defensive reviews are mixed and can sometimes leave a Gary Sanchez-like taste on the tongue. He has the capacity and work ethic to stick at the position, but maybe his bat is too potent to subject to the rigors of battery work?

Alvarez would certainly upgrade the Mets lineup over the likes of James McCann and Tomas Nido. However, they’re both talented defenders who have experience with the Mets pitching staff. If New York wants to experiment with Alvarez ahead of the postseason, now is the time to do it.

Brett Baty, 22, 3B, NYM (MLB)
35 PA, 1 HR, .161/.235/.258

Baty’s first exposure to Major League pitching hasn’t exactly gone according to plan. He had only 26 successful plate appearances at Triple-A before he was called upon. Much of his season was spent in Double-A where he hit .312/.406/.544 in 394 plate appearances. Baty is a disciplined hitter who makes hard, low-angle contact. With 91-mph average and 113-mph max exit velocities, he’s already demonstrated his power in just 24 batted ball events. His tendency to keep the ball on the ground could yield a contact profile something like a less-extreme Yandy Diaz. Whereas Diaz is nigh immune to strikeouts, Baty has a bit of swing-and-miss in his game.

Eduardo Escobar is nearing a return which could spell the end of the Baty experiment – at least for 2022. It’s also worth noting that his struggles have occurred over just nine games. He wouldn’t be the first player to need a couple beats before catching his stride.

Pete Crow-Armstrong, 20, OF, CHC (A+)
235 PA, 9 HR, 16 SB, .286/.332/.521

Known to many prospect-watchers by his initials “PCA,” Crow-Armstrong was acquired from the Mets as part of the Javier Baez trade in 2021. The Cubs instigated a mechanical change to his swing which has led to above average pull-side power this season. Including a thorough stomping of Low-A pitchers, PCA has 16 home runs and 29 stolen bases across 418 total plate appearances. He’s a gifted center fielder who was originally expected to fit in the Majors as a defensive savant. The addition of power to his profile could unlock a star-level ceiling. There remain issues with his bat including elevated strikeout and swinging strike rates. He’s young for his level and showed better plate discipline in the past. Consider him a volatile work-in-progress who now appears likely to have a role as a future regular.

Shea Langeliers, 24, C, OAK (MLB)
36 PA, 2 HR, .294/.306/.647

A key component of the Matt Olson trade, Langeliers has made an impactful debut. He’s already popped two home runs, four doubles, and a triple in just nine games. That’s par for the course with Langeliers. He has middling plate discipline, plus power, and a below average feel for contact. When he does connect, it tends to be loud. His best trait is defense where he’s expected to be a comfortably positive contributor. The presence of Sean Murphy is only a temporary impediment – it’s widely assumed the veteran Athletic will be traded over the winter.

Brayan Bello, 23, SP, BOS (MLB)
22 IP, 9.00 K/9, 4.91 BB/9, 7.36 ERA

Recently returned from the injured list, Bello had his best big league outing against the division rival Blue Jays. He tossed five innings of two-run ball while compiling seven strikeouts. Bello has a four-pitch repertoire led by a bowling ball 96.5-mph sinker. He also has a slightly harder fastball he can locate up in the zone. A slider and frequently-used changeup round out his pitch mix. In 18 minor league appearances he posted 12.10 K/9, 3.40 BB/9, and a 2.34 ERA. His carrying trait is an over-60 percent ground ball rate which, if maintained, would rank second among qualified starters between southpaw Framber Valdez (67.5%) and right-hander Logan Webb (58.4%). Like many sinker specialists making their debuts, Bello has struggled with free passes. He got away with iffy command in the minors because his stuff played even when thrown down the pike. He’s liable to need an adjustment period in the Majors.

Five More

Mark Vientos, NYM (22): A possible alternative to Baty and Escobar, Vientos is red hot for the month of August. He’s batting .403/.448/.661 with four home runs in 67 plate appearances. He draws negative reviews for his third base defense and is in the process of switching over to first base. The bat appears as if it should play in the Majors at either position, though he might be a tad ordinary at the cold corner. He’s just shy of a 30 percent strikeout rate for a second consecutive season in the upper-minors.

Grayson Rodriguez, BAL (22): Rodriguez has been sidelined for nearly three months with a lat strain. He is due to face hitters in a simulated game later this week. It’s possible he could make his debut in late-September.

Gunnar Henderson, BAL (21): Rumors abound of an impending callup for Henderson. Club officials are supposedly pondering the implications on his development. Henderson hasn’t exactly knocked down doors in August, batting .259/.364/.435 with 12.1 percent walk and 31.3 percent strikeout rates.

Robert Hassell III, WSH (21): One of the prizes acquired for Juan Soto, the Nationals aggressively promoted Hassell to Double-A where he’s hit .147/.237/.206 through his first eight games. Like Baty above, it’s not uncommon for young players to scuffle when first presented with a new challenge. And even Mike Trout has eight-game slumps. Strikeouts have been an issue for Hassell since joining the Nats org.

Curtis Mead, TB, (21): Recently recovered from a month-long injury to his elbow, Mead has five hits and two walks over 14 plate appearances. The right-handed slugger could make a useful platoonmate with David Peralta, especially once rosters expand in a few days. He’s Rule 5 eligible this winter so getting a jump on his service clock should be seen as acceptable – assuming the Rays can find a 40-man spot. He’s hitting .299/.391/.536 on the year, mostly at Double-A.

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