The Mets are preparing to select the contract of first base prospect Pete Alonso, according to Anthony DiComo of MLB.com (via Twitter). He’ll make the Opening Day roster — a possibility that grew throughout camp and that Jon Heyman of MLB Network tweeted recently was slated to take place.
Alonso’s path to the roster was cleared by injuries to Todd Frazier and Jed Lowrie, but he may have forced his way up regardless. The 24-year-old has slugged his way up the prospect charts in recent years, drawing top-50 consensus rankings from prospect hounds after the 2018 season. He continued to drive the ball this spring, turning in a .368/.394/.647 slash with four home runs in 71 plate appearances against Grapefruit League pitching.
When it comes to prospect promotions, service time is always a major consideration. Even those players who are deemed ready for the big leagues and necessary for the roster may beheld down briefly to ensure they do not secure a full season of MLB service. Those considerations were no doubt part of the equation when Alonso failed to receive a September call-up last year.
In this case, though, there’s arguably not much reason for the Mets to stay their hand. First and foremost, Alonso is a 24-year-old first baseman who has played a full year in the upper minors — not, say, a 20-year-old shortstop who’s considered one of the very best prospects in baseball. Even if Alonso is never sent back down, the club will control him throughout his twenties.
Alonso’s age-30 season could well be a valuable one, but it’s not nearly so precious as the extra season might be for some other top prospects. That’s particularly true since hitter’s aging curves are hewing younger and toward a consistent downward trajectory. Alonso is a player whose value is expected to come more or less exclusively from his bat, so it’s all the more sensible to go ahead and bring him up. And if he doesn’t produce from the outset, or the roster situation otherwise demands it, the club can always shuttle him back to Triple-A and gain back that added year of control.
It’ll certainly be fun to see Alonso take the field alongside the many other new faces in New York and the rest of the NL East. The division promises to be a battle all year long. His ability to thrive out of the gates could have a meaningful impact for a club that doesn’t know whether or when it’ll see Yoenis Cespedes in its lineup.
Since he was drafted in the second round in 2016, Alonso has steadily produced in just over a thousand plate appearances of professional action. He’s a .290/.381/.560 hitter in the minors, with 59 total home runs (including 36 in the 2018 season) and 114 walks to go with 221 strikeouts. That’s a rather well-rounded profile, though power remains the calling card.
Defense and baserunning will likely never be strong suits, but the hope is that Alonso will hit enough that those factors will largely fade to the background. There aren’t really any major concerns with the bat, but his track record isn’t flawless. Even as he reached new power heights last year at Triple-A, Alonso’s strikeout rate popped up to 25.9%. He still managed a double-digit walk rate at the highest level of the minors, but the on-base outlook still comes with some uncertainty. Alonso will need to maintain a high batting average (as he did until ascending to Triple-A) or boost his walk rate to be a truly outstanding offensive producer.