The Cleveland Indians needed a new first baseman this offseason and they got their man with a two year deal for Yonder Alonso. What can Indians fans expect from him this season?
After previewing the year ahead for fellow infielders Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, and Jason Kipnis, we turn our attention to first base. Alonso, 30, is coming off the best season of his career and is looking to keep up that level of production.
For years, Alonso was mediocre at the plate. Never in the first seven years of his career did he finish a season with double digit homers. He always hit for a decent average, nothing spectacular, but he didn’t strike out much and was pretty good at drawing walks. But something changed last season.
In 2017, splitting time with Oakland and Seattle, he hit .266/.365/.501, with 28 homers, 67 RBIs, and 68 walks. These are just unbelievable power numbers from a guy who previously averaged six homers a season prior to this.
In spring training, already Alonso has hit five home runs and has nine of his 15 hits go for extra bases. Although he’s mostly been facing Triple-A pitchers, he still seems to be adjusting pretty well to playing in an Indians uniform.
So what can Cleveland Indians fans expect from their new first baseman? Is he going to continue his late career breakout, or will he regress back to the mean?
The always wonderful Baseball Reference projections once again are expecting regression for an Indians player.
2018 Projections: .260/.342/.433, 25 doubles, 17 homers, 58 RBIs, 55 walks, 95 Ks
They don’t completely buy Alonso’s breakout, but he’s always hit for a decent average and .260 is close to the norm for him. These projections peg him as a serviceable player, not one who will bring the house down or will have fans screaming to get rid of him, but just a guy who gets the job done.
Some fans will obviously have higher expectations for the team’s big addition this winter, but he’s never been a star player and likely won’t become one now.
I always tend to guess a little differently than other projections. For the most part I think the projections always lowball the players and try to set up a baseline as opposed to guessing the actual production. But for Yonder Alonso, I’m thinking a bit differently.
2018 Predictions: .259/.346/.427, 20 doubles, 13 homers, 56 RBIs, 52 walks, 110 Ks
When it comes to what to expect from Alonso this season, many people will be going off his success from last season and think he can repeat it. His .302 BAbip from last year doesn’t suggest that he was overly lucky last season, he was just really good. The Cleveland Indians seem convinced that he can repeat those numbers. However, I’m not convinced.
BAbip isn’t the only indicator for regression. Timing is another. And the timing of Alonso’s breakout is concerning for his long term outlook. He broke out at age 30. Everyone should be wary of players having breakout career years that late into their careers. He’s been in the league eight years, and he’s never been a guy who hits 25-30 homers a season. Why should anyone believe that he can be that guy now, going into his age 31 season?
To me, this is something that will be very hard to build upon. If he can repeat his numbers from last year, then that’s fantastic and everyone will be happy. But I’m not betting that he’s going to repeat his success. His numbers last year just seem too unlikely to repeat.
Alonso doesn’t strike out much, he can draw walks, and he hits for a decent batting average. He’s a serviceable player. But he’s not a star like the other players in the Cleveland Indians infield.