Adrian Gonzalez has been fine thus far for the New York Mets, but at some point, he’s going to become a liability. That’s where Peter Alonso comes in.
We all know the day is coming where Adrian Gonzalez will have to make way for a younger option at first base for the New York Mets. It seemed safe to assume that his successor would come in the form of Dominic Smith, but after a scorching hot start to the season, Peter Alonso is playing his way into the future plans of the New York Mets.
On Jan. 18, 2018, general manager Sandy Alderson plucked Gonzalez from baseball obscurity. Earlier in the offseason, the Los Angeles Dodgers shipped the five-time All-Star to the Atlanta Braves, who in turn designated Gonzalez for assignment.
Adding Gonzalez to the fold served two purposes for the Mets—to light a fire under Smith and to squeeze every last drop of baseball left in A-Gon’s aging body. But Alonso may have been the true beneficiary of the move.
Given the hype surrounding Smith, the casual fan may not be too familiar with Alonso, so I will oblige you with a short introduction.
A native of Tampa, Florida, Alonso was a standout at Henry B. Plant High School and opted to play his college ball in-state at the University of Florida. Primarily playing first base for the Gators, Alonso earned All-SEC honors during his freshman season. Just a few years later, he would play an integral role on the UF team that qualified for the opening round of the 2016 College World Series.
With their third selection in the 2016 MLB Draft, the Mets picked Alonso 64th overall. He signed with the organization for a bonus just north of $900,000.
At 21 years old, Alonso debuted with short-season Single-A Brooklyn Cyclones where he slashed .321/.382/.587 with five home runs and 21 RBI in 30 games.
The following season, he spent 82 games in Advanced-A ball playing for the St. Lucie Mets before garnering a promotion to Double-A Binghamton. Over the course of 2017, Alonso batted .289/.359/.524 with 18 home runs and 63 RBI split across two levels.
Standing six-foot-three, Alonso currently ranks as the seventh-best first base prospect in baseball, as well as the fourth best in the Mets system, per MLB.com.
Like his major league club did over the first few weeks of the 2018 season, he has gotten off to a scorching hot start. Alonso is absolutely mashing the ball for the Rumble Ponies, slashing .378/.496/.694 with eight home runs and 25 RBI in just 28 games.
Luis Rojas has been the manager in Binghamton since 2011 when they were still the Binghamton Mets and not the Rumble Ponies. When talking about Alonso, he had high praise for his young first baseman.
“He’s probably the best hitter from the right side I’ve seen since I’ve been in the Mets organization,” Rojas told Mark W. Sanchez of the New York Post. “You got to put the word ‘special’ there — he’s very special. The guy he reminds me, he reminds me of [Michael] Conforto. … I mean, anything you threw to [Conforto], he squared it. It’s the same thing as Alonso.
You’re talking about a pure hitter with power. It’s one of those rare combinations. Sometimes a good hitter turns into a power hitter later, but this guy’s both.”
Now, I’d be the first person to tell you that the Mets farm system isn’t exactly a waterfall spitting out elite right-handed talent at the plate, but you cannot ignore the sentiment. His minor league numbers and high praise from his manager speak a lot to the potential of this young man.
Originally, Dominic Smith was seen as the future of this organization at first base. However, a poor 2017 coupled with a part-injured, part-ineffective Spring Training led to him opening the season in Triple-A.
Smith is batting .279/.394/.423 with two home runs and 12 RBI, but in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, that seems a bit pedestrian. Additionally, the fact that Alonso demonstrated significant power consistently through his minor league career may just give him enough of an edge to jump Smith to the major leagues.
In 530 minor league at-bats, Alonso has cracked 31 home runs, while Smith has only hit 42 in 2,142. Alonso is leaving the yard at an astronomically higher rate than Smith.
For now, it doesn’t look like Adrian Gonzalez is going anywhere. Despite the Mets season spiraling downward (the club has dropped six of their last seven series), Gonzalez has been a pleasant surprise at the plate.
His batting average and on-base percentage are lower than where we would all like them to be at .247 and .324 respectively, but A-Gon has slugged five home runs and driven 20 RBI while picking up some very clutch hits. Gonzalez also continues to contribute defensively despite his age.
The four-time Gold Glove Award winner still can pick it at first, an area Alonso himself needs to improve on. Alonso committed 19 errors in 83 games last year but looks to be already on a much more acceptable pace with only two through 28 games in 2018.
The Adrian Gonzalez signing is already a win for Sandy Alderson. Not many people expected much out of him and he’s already demonstrated that he does have a little bit of gas left in the tank.
However, it will not last forever and for all we know, the Mets could need a first baseman by mid-summer.
Speaking from one Mets fan to another, you should get excited about Peter Alonso. He has hit at every level in the minor leagues and has the chance to join this club and become an impact bat. While the first base situation looks cloudy right now, the future looks bright with Alonso in the pipeline.
For more on Alonso, check out Ricky Keeler‘s column on him as the first baseman of the future.