It’s been beaten into our minds to always be skeptical of college first baseman, especially the right-handed hitting kind. The offensive bar at this spot is so high that it isn’t worth investing too much in first base prospects and the industry as a whole has devalued players like this, see Cron, C.J. Pete Alonso is different. He deserves more attention.
The Mets selected Alonso in the second round of the 2016 draft out of the University of Florida. He was productive as a freshman and again as a sophomore posting a .901 OPS while narrowing the gap on his walk and strikeout totals. His junior year in Gainesville saw him put it all together as he hit .374/.469/.659 with a 1:1 strikeout to walk ratio and showing that he was more than just a right-handed masher and had developed a hit tool and patience to go with it.
Fast forward to 2019, and Alonso was getting recognized as a key part of the Mets future. In fact, one of the first things new Mets General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen did after getting the job was go out to Arizona and watch Alonso in the Arizona Fall League and take him out to dinner. He proclaimed in November that he intended Pete to be the Mets Opening Day first baseman, and after a strong AFL (.255/.330/.510) and stronger spring (.352/.387/.620) that promise came true, and Alonso was hitting second on Opening Day against Nationals ace Max Scherzer. Baptism by fire, as they say.
Alonso has one plus tool, but it’s the appropriate one for his position. There are some concerns about the rest of his game, especially on the defensive side, but again, power plays.
Defense (40 Field/50 Arm): If you throw the speed component out the window, as you should for a hulking first baseman, this is the weakest part of Alonso’s game. Entering 2018 there were even some whispers that he wouldn’t even be good enough to play a big league first base, and while those whispers have quieted down, the best you can hope for is still below average.
Power (70 Game/80 Raw): This is where the money’s at. Alonso’s top of the scale raw power has never been questioned, and neither has his ability to get to it in games as he hit 36 homers last season combined between Las Vegas and Binghamton, to lead the minor leagues. He put on a show during the Fall Stars BP, and famously deposited a 103-MPH fastball from Nate Pearson to right center field. He will hit 35+ homers at his peak.
Hit (45 Present/50 Future): The hit tool for Alonso isn’t nearly as prodigious as the power tool, but his short quick swing allows him to barrel the ball frequently. In fact, he has produced some of the highest minor league exit velocities ever recorded (unfortunately not available publicly). This speaks to his ability to get to the baseball. The swing is compact, and he’s proven that velocity isn’t an issue for him. According to Jason Woodell, the weakness in his game is off-speed away, and we did see some of that on Opening Day. If that breaking ball gets too much of the plate you will pay for it. He has posted strong walk rates throughout his big league career and has enough on base ability to be an asset even if he hits .235-.240.
Speed (30 Present/30 Future): I’m hesitant to call Alonso a 20-runner, so I went with the 30 grade as he can move a bit when he gets going. He is a below average athlete and will make his money on strength and leverage.
Prediction: The Mets have a lot of depth at the first base position for 2019 that could ultimately eat into his playing time a bit, but if Alonso hits how I think he will, he will be a mainstay in that Mets lineup. He will show that power but there are some concerns that he could hit .240 out of the gate but I see him settling in around .265-.270 at peak. He’s a Paul Konerko type anchor in the middle of a contending big league team’s lineup. The Mets will have the 24-year old around for his prime since he is making his debut this season, and his chance for a big pay day will come with a team extension that buys out a free agent year or two, which may be beneficial to both sides as we’ve seen how icy the free agent market can be for right-handed hitting first base only types. Alonso projects to be a good source of power and on-base skills for the foreseeable future.