When the A's traded Drew Pomeranz and a minor league pitcher I'd never heard of for Yonder Alonso (and Scrabble), I, like a lot of other people, was thinking: no big loss. That is, Pomeranz was not a big loss, stemming mostly from his character issues that caused him to miss a good chunk of 2014 recovering from a broken hand suffered punching a
locker (Ed.: chair), forcing the A's to start Brad Mills--twice.
Scrabble seemed like a safe bullpen depth piece, something the A's were sorely lacking last year.
It took me awhile to think anything of Alonso, other than as a Kila Ka'aihue/Brandon Allen/Kyle Blanks style first base placeholder--bound to start a game or two before a better option would present itself.
I no longer look at Alonso this way, and neither did the Reds when they took him 7th overall in 2008, or the Padres when they rather famously chose him over Anthony Rizzo to be their first baseman of the future.
To be sure, Alonso has underperformed in the slugging department. His 2015 ISO of .099 is pretty abysmal for a regular first baseman. But he's been an above average bat when healthy who has some power potential, as evidenced by the 39 doubles and 9 home runs he hit in 2012.
Last year, Alonso walked almost as many times as he struck out, suggesting that, like many struggling power hitters, he is giving up some of his power in order to make (weaker) contact. I doubt there will be many instructions from A's coaches or other staff to reduce his strikeouts. The A's are hoping instead that there's a power hitter trapped inside Alonso.
Then there are Alonso's other attributes. He is a plus defender at first and has a reasonable amount of speed. He had a down year in the stolen base department last year, but has stolen 17 bases in 508 career games--no Billy Butler on the basepaths. That pays dividends in one more than one way at the Coliseum: having some speed means taking advantage of the spacious foul ground to turn some extra pop ups into pop outs.
So, Alonso is a good defender who walks a decent clip, hits for average and even adds some value running--or chasing down pop ups in foul ground. All he needs to do is regain some of his power stroke at the age (28) where some guys are JUST DISCOVERING it. I'll take the over on Alonso's production this year.
How about you?