New York’s Pete Alonso did Pete Alonso things in 2020. After slugging 182 home runs back in 2019 -- 53 actually -- Alonso hit 16 long balls and drove in 35 runs while slashing .231/.326/.490 last year. His home run pace wasn’t too far off from 2019, as his AB/HR mark went 11.26 in 2019 to 13.0 in 2020. His 13.0 AB/HR in 2020 would have given him a total in the mid-40’s with his at-bat totals from 2019. Most of his plate discipline metrics were rather similar, and he stayed within a percentage point of the previous year’s walk and strikeout rates. Drafting Alonso gives your team plenty of pop and he’s one of a few that can lead the league in home runs, but he is a bit of a drain on your team’s batting average. Can the average rebound in 2021?
Alonso hit .260 back in 2019, and a drop in BABIP from .280 to .242 was felt with his average dropping to .231. Was he lucky or unlucky? Well, his BABIP is going to be lower because he doesn’t have the luxury of being fleet afoot, so he won’t be legging out many infield hits. However, he makes such hard contact that not many of his balls are hit weakly in the infield. He’s been extremely close to his xBA in recent seasons, too, so he basically is what he’s expected to be.
Courtesy of Baseball Savant
Alonso did make substantially less contact out of the zone, which can be perceived both positively and negatively, but his zone contact jumped up to a respectable 85.6 percent mark. His swinging strike rate only jumped a small amount and it’s critical that Alonso doesn’t add any more strikeouts to his ledger.
Is Alonso ever going to be a big batting average guy? Probably not. Sure, there’s optimism because he makes such hard contact that he can get there, but best-case scenario, Alonso is a .265-.270 guy, and that’s with many things breaking his way.
He hit more fly balls in 2020, but his HR/FB rate dropped by six percentage points, despite continuing to make hard contact. His average exit velocity on fly balls and line drives dipped about one mile per hour and his barrel rate dropped almost two percentage points. However, the big discrepancy that hit me like a train rolling off the tracks was his hard contact rate on fly balls, per FanGraphs, especially when we look at parts of the field.
First, let’s start with on fly balls overall.
The drop in HR/FB ratio can be explained to the middle and right side of the field. His power to his pull-side was fine, but that sentiment can’t be expressed for the other two-thirds of the field.
His power to the opposite field is far from gargantuan, but it did take a step back in 2020, and it’s no surprise when your hard contact cuts in half to that side of the field. Getting back closer to his 2019 marks to the right side of the field is paramount for Alonso.
Oh, speaking of things getting cut in half.
Yowza! This is probably the biggest development. His power marks to the center of the field were slashed like a car wheel after a bad breakup. Yikes. Alonso makes hard contact, but when you’re going to the deepest part of the park, you can’t afford to miss. He certainly missed more in 2020 compared to 2019. Now, will he replicate those 2019 marks? Probably not, but he’s definitely better than those marks from last season. Expect him to settle somewhere in between these two in 2021.
Alonso has immense power and some added pieces to the New York lineup should help his counting stats. The first baseman likely hits right around 40 home runs in 2021 with 100+ RBI and a batting average right around .250. He’s currently the sixth first baseman off the board, per NFBC data, and he’s going right in the middle of an interesting group of first baseman.
Guerrero should hit for a good average, but his power numbers may be less inspiring than the others, especially if he keeps beating balls into the ground.
Alonso hits for massive power, but little boost in the average department.
Voit’s power is a slight step down from Alonso, but he hits for a solid average.
There’s a nice buying opportunity for Alonso and being available in the fourth or fifth round of 15-team formats after being just one year removed from a 50-home run season presents a nice buying opportunity.