It has been a while since the Oakland A's traded for first baseman Yonder Alonso from the San Diego Padres. It's been nearly as long since I last thought about Alonso and what he might bring to the Oakland lineup. Now that spring training has started I suppose it's time to think about Alonso, again.
It is well known that Alonso isn't a power hitter, despite a Triple-A OPS and ISO north of .826 and .175, respectively. Patience at the plate and a steady glove are what the A's knew they would get out of Alonso. In 2015 he played the second most games of his career and at 28 years old he posted his second best OPS+ at 111. I became curious what might be in store for Alonso and the A's in 2016. UnpaidObserver asks: Could he break out?
Alonso has never played a full season, almost as if he is averse to health. So the fact that he missed more than 20 games in May with a shoulder injury and then was shut down in early September with a back injury struck a curious chord inside me. I wanted to see if there were clues hidden between his healthy stints that reveal what we can expect from him.
Looking at the Numbers
From April 6th through May 7th Alonso performed quite well.
|103 PAs||12.6 BB%||12.6 K%||.864 OPS||.376 wOBA||144 wRC+|
A shoulder bruise kept him from playing again until June 2nd. That is where he went downhill, quickly.
|299 PAs||9.7 BB%||11.7 K%||.701 OPS||.310 wOBA||99 wRC+|
Clearly those numbers aren't too promising. For the bulk of his 2015 season Alonso wasn't even league average. His plate discipline remained stable, however his power totally disappeared and his overall production suffered. I want to chalk it up to injuries, so let's look at his career month-by-month splits to see if there's something there.
|Mar/Apr||8.5 BB%||14.6 K%||.673 OPS||.295 wOBA||90 wRC+|
|May||8.7 BB%||14.1 K%||.783 OPS||.340 wOBA||120 wRC+|
|June||7.6 BB%||15.6 K%||.627 OPS||277 wOBA||77 wRC+|
|July||10.3 BB%||12.5 K%||.781 OPS||339 wOBA||119 wRC+|
|Aug||9.6 BB%||12.1 K%||.783 OPS||.344 wOBA||122 wRC+|
|Sept/Oct||9.4 BB%||21.2 K%||.731 OPS||.319 wOBA||102 wRC+|
|1st Half||8.9 BB%||14.6 K%||690 OPS||302 wOBA||95 wRC+|
|2nd Half||9.2 BB%||14.4 K%||.790 OPS||345 wOBA||122 wRC+|
On its face Alonso's 2015 season was one derailed by an early injury. However as the season wore on his medium and hard-contact rates increased while his soft-contact rate decreased and he posted the second-highest contact rate of his career. Consider me confused.
Where Does He Go From Here?
It would be irresponsible to assume Alonso would have carried a 144 wRC+ through the 2015 season. He still, however, ended up an above-average producer for the year and is still firmly in his prime years. Steamer projects a .739 OPS, a .323 wOBA, and a 106 wRC+, which is a safe projection and follows his career trend.
What if there is more potential in his bat? It's likely he has a better lineup around him and his new home park should be an improvement. The Coliseum rates as being a better environment for scoring runs than Petco Park, Alonso's home park for the majority of his career. The Coliseum also plays more in favor of Alonso's strength, which is hitting doubles. If he could manage to push his OPS north of .750 and get his wRC+ into the 120 range he would become a real force in the A's lineup.
Daric Barton is the name folks around here have most commonly compared Alonso to. Would that be so bad? At Barton's best he was a 5 WAR player. Sure he didn't have much power, but his ability to get on base coupled with his strong defense made him a quality player to have.
I'm not worried about Alonso's lack of power as long as the power you expect from a first baseman comes from somewhere else in the lineup. The A's have a shortstop and two catchers who should outperform league average power numbers for their respective positions. Problem solved.
Alonso could be Ike Davis 2.0, or he could be a pleasant surprise. I'm willing to believe the latter.