Grabbed with the seventh overall pick in the 2008 amateur draft, Yonder Alonso is the face of the Reds minor league system. And for good reason. The kid can flat-out hit a baseball.
Alonso is another left-handed bat hoping to make an already lefty laden lineup. His 6'3", 215 pound frame is reminiscent of another Reds' first baseman...fan favorite, Sean "The Mayor" Casey.
Alonso committed to play for head coach, Jim Morris at perennial baseball powerhouse University of Miami. That did not stop the Minnesota Twins from selecting him with a flyer pick in the 15th round of the 2005 draft.
No dice, and lucky for the Reds, he stuck to his commitment and played three years for what is essentially a Rookie League team with aluminum bats.
In college Alonso started at first base from the word go. Looking at his numbers, it is easy to see why many scouts considered him the best pure hitter in the 2008 draft.
As a freshman at "The U" he hit .295/.373/.492/.865 in 244 at-bats, sophomore season .376/.519/.705/1.224 in 210 at-bats, his final year as a junior saw him hit .370/.534/.777/1.311 in 211 at-bats—ending his college career with a line of .344/.476/.650/1.136, mighty impressive.
However, after Alonso's slap happy freshman campaign before he adjusted his high school eye to his magic major collegiate eye, his sophomore and junior line is .373/.501/.789/1.290 in 125 games and 421 at-bats.
Scouts love hitters who show plate discipline—the thinking being that one cannot unlearn patience. A young ballplayer with plate discipline is hard to find, especially a guy like Alonso who drives the gaps and will occasionally pop some out to both sides and to center.
Alonso ended his career at Miami with a 172-103 walk to strikeout ratio. His combined sophomore and junior ratio was an astounding 110-66 while hitting 25 doubles and 42 long balls.
The only criticism of his is at times he shows a tendency to be overly tentative, watching too many pitches that he should be able to drive, especially so against southpaws.
Yonder Alonso was a late signee in 2008 mostly because he was playing in the College World Series, but also for financial reasons. The Reds paid Alonso a $2,000,000 signing bonus and gave him a five-year deal worth $4,550,000.
That is a cause for concern. His greed.
Alonso regularly works out with Alex Rodriguez who does not have the slightest reputation of loyalty or denying the fattest paycheck available. Not a good sign for a small market club like the Reds.
In 2008, after the College World Series and his subsequent signing, Alonso only played six games for Sarasota, the Reds high-A ball team in the Florida State League.
Last season, he spent significant time down with a hand injury. This undoubtedly cost him a September call (he was the only member of the 40 man roster not to get a sniff). In addition to the September call, it most definitely sucked some power from his bat.
In 2009, Alonso spent six games playing Rookie League ball, 49 games with high-A affiliate, Sarasota, and 29 in AA Carolina.
In his first full (injury plagued) year of pro ball he put up a combined line of .292/.375/.464/.839—incredibly similar to his freshman year numbers at Miami, .295/.373/.492/.865—and recall how dramatically his sophomore and junior year numbers improved.
Alonso's current 20-80 scouting scales are as follows:
Overall Batting: Around 63, a tick or two taken away for watching too many pitches.
Power: Around 55 right now, sure to improve as his learns to trust his supremely balanced swing and kicks up the speed a few notches. Potentially mid-to-high 60s.
Speed: Weakest part of his game, no better than a 30
Plate Patience: Will work the count for long at-bats, 73
Defense: Not sure. Probably nothing special, but will make routine plays.
Most Reds' forecasters have Yonder Alonso starting 2010 in Triple-A ball. Some have him spending the entire year down there. But most have him arriving shortly before or after the All-Star break.
A certain Bleacher Report forecaster who has nailed his Reds predictions in the past believes Alonso is by far the best prospect in the organization, has been properly seasoned, and will be on the 25-man Reds opening day roster in 2010.
Assuming he is healthy and that we are facing a righty—Alonso will have had such an impressive spring—it will not be possible to keep him out of the starting lineup.
Yonder Alonso at first and Joey Votto in left.