Blocked Prospects: Yonder Alonso

The Reds have successful drafted and developed their first baseman of the future, and it's not 2008 first round pick Yonder Alonso. Joey Votto, a second round pick back in 2002, has emerged as one of the game's best young hitters, posting the fourth highest OPS (.981) in baseball last year. Tim mentioned Votto as a young player with a chance to receive a contract extension, and went so far as to find some comparables.

Baseball America ranked Alonso the 45th best prospect in the game, while ESPN's Keith Law had him 76th. Baseball Prospectus' Kevin Goldstein left him off his Top 101 Prospects List entirely. In their 2010 Handbook, Baseball America rated Alonso the team's second best prospect (though that was before the Aroldis Chapman signing) and wrote that he is "the purest hitter in the system and has above-average power." Though he missed a big chunk of the 2009 season with a hamate injury, Alonso hit .292/.374/.464 across three levels.

As the 7th overall pick in 2008, Alonso received a Major League contract that put him on the 40-man roster immediately and will pay him $4.55MM through 2012. The clock is ticking on Alonso's three option years, which will expire after the 2011 season, however it's worth noting that he'll qualify for the rare fourth option because his original three will be used before his fifth pro season. Regardless, Cincinnati is in a bit of a pickle because they have a highly touted first base prospect ready to start the season in Double-A, and a 26-year-old franchise player at the same position.

Rumors swirled last year that the Reds would try Alonso behind the plate, but he doesn't have the body for it and it's a position that takes quite some time to learn. MLB.com's Mark Sheldon reports that Alonso will play left field this year, which is exactly what the Padres did with Kyle Blanks when he approached the big leagues blocked by Adrian Gonzalez. If the experiment in left doesn't go as planned, Alonso will be a prime piece of trade bait.

When it comes to comparable prospects being traded, the first name that comes to mind is Matt LaPorta. The Brewers selected him in the first round despite having Prince Fielder in the big leagues, but used him to headline a package for CC Sabathia, who helped them get to the playoffs. If the Reds contend this year or next, Alonso could be the guy to get them the piece needed to put them over the top. For now, he'll try out left field and continue to develop at Double-A.


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