Yonder Alonso Improving at the Plate for the Padres


At 9-20, the Padres appear to be heading for a 100+ loss season.  Injuries, Rookies playing at the Big League level before they should, and poor performances put on display by most on the roster at inopportune times have made this almost 30 game start a bit of a disaster.  The start to this 2012 campaign has kind of reminded me at times of the terrific flick “Major League,” only the beginning of the movie, where the team appears hapless and cannot seem to find its bearings, not the end where the team ends up on a hot streak.  Parallels to arguably the best sports movie of all time aside, things on the whole have not gone well, and do not appear to improve for a while for our beloved Friars throughout the 2012 campaign.  “Negative Nancy” sentiments about the team’s fortunes in the immediate future aside, it is always better to make the best out of a bad situation.  With that in mind, there have still been some Padres in particular like Rookie First Baseman Yonder Alonso which have showed some improvement over the recent weeks.

As I am sure all of you remember, hopes were pretty high for the then-newly acquired Alonso to succeed as the Padres entered the 2012 season.  The First Base job was open for Alonso to seize in San Diego, and he was expected to hit 5th in a lineup which needed immense production from said spot.  Unfortunately for Alonso, the season’s first 17 games did not treat him well, and things looked bleak for the centerpiece of the “Latos Deal.”

Alonso was 11 for 53 (.196), had a .292 On Base Percentage, and a .250 Slugging Percentage.  Not exactly the production a team expected from a player with such high expectations, and I know some fans that were a tad restless with his lack of productivity at the time.

Undeterred by an early lack of success, Alonso appeared to have got things back on the right track on April 25th.  It was in that game where Alonso went 2 for 4 with 2 Doubles in a 7-2 Loss to Washington where he appeared to started his current streak of solid production at the plate.  Over his last 10 games, Alonso has gone 15 for 40 (.375), and emerged as one of San Diego’s most improved hitters.

During the aforementioned period, Alonso has raised his Batting Average from the paltry .196 mark to a team-leading (for a starter) .271, improved his On Base Percentage from .292 to .336, and best of all, upped his Slugging Percentage from .250 to .375.  Not outstanding numbers by any means, but it still has been nice to have watched his improvement over the last couple of weeks.

As of right now, Alonso is currently tied for the team lead in Hits (26), ranked second in Total Bases (36), and has hit the most Doubles (10) so far this season by any Padres player.  Trumpeted by management as a solid gap hitter, Alonso has done just that over the course of his last 10 games.  Yonder has hit 7 Doubles over said span and illustrated why his swing is very conducive to Petco’s cavernous dimensions and favor gap and opposite field power.

Despite his improvement, Alonso’s stat line which currently reads “0 Home Runs and 4 RBI’s” is a bit distressing to some.  To me however, I’m not overly worried about either statistic and feel like these are not causes for concern, at least in the short-term.  Alonso plays half his games at Petco, and some of those Doubles he has laced would have been easy Home Runs in other ballparks around the league.  As for his RBI total, Alonso and his other teammates cannot drive in runs, if there is nobody in scoring position, let alone on base.  If these numbers stay the same at the end of this month then I will begin to worry a bit, but for right now, they are simply numbers which he can easily improve (at least the RBI’s).

This article is by no means me saying that Alonso is a finished product, and we should forget what we had in Adrian Gonzalez and all his awesomeness.  In fact, Alonso still has a long way to go as a player, and the season is not even 1/5th of the way over.  It still would be nice to see Alonso develop a little bit more pop in his swing, he could use a bit more discipline at the plate (9 Walks to 18 Strikeouts is by no means bad but can be improved), and his Defense (4 Errors so far) could use some work.

Before the season began, I discussed how Alonso could be a possible Rookie of the Year candidate at the end of the season and why.  Granted, Alonso will probably have to increase his power and RBI numbers to force his way into the conversation by year’s end.  Still, if Alonso could put up a season of .280 15 HRs’s, 20 Doubles, and 80 RBI’s, he would turn some heads and have a nice foundation to build on after his first full season in the majors.  It is at least comforting to know now that shipping Latos out of town as well as Anthony Rizzo has not been a total loss.  Thus, let’s hope Alonso keeps improving at the plate and with the glove, because the Padres are going to need all they help they can get this season.

Statistics Courtesy of: http://www.baseball-reference.com/

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