Wednesday, April 28, 2010

2010 Top Prospect List: #1 Yonder Alonso, 1b/lf

Yonder Alonso
Height 6-2, Weight 210, B/T: L/R, DOB: 4/8/1987
2009 Redlegs Baseball Prospect Ranking: #1

The Reds selected Yonder Alonso with the 7th overall pick in the 2008 draft. When a team drafts a first baseman in the first round, they are doing it primarily for his bat. To justify drafting a player with minimal positional and defensive value, the player must have an outstanding bat to drive his value. Yonder certainly fit the bill coming out of college, but has yet to really establish that level of performance in the professional ranks.

Still, the Reds are in need of impact offensive talent and Yonder Alonso could ultimately fit the bill...if they can only find a defensive position for him to play.


Yonder spent the 2009 season bouncing around three levels of the minor leagues.

For high-A Sarasota, Yonder played 49 games and piled up 201 plate appearances. He hit .303/.383/.497/.880 with 7 homeruns and a 30/24 K/BB ratio. His BABIP was .333, which seems until you check his strong line drive rate of 29%, which is more than high enough to support such a BABIP. It was also more than enough to earn him a promotion to double-A.

For double-A Carolina, Yonder logged 29 games and compiled 121 plate appearances in which he posted a .295/.372/.457/.829 with 2 homers and a 15/14 K/BB ratio. Once again, Yonder posted a higher than normal BABIP of .330, but once again it was supported by a stellar linedrive rate of 25%.

Yonder was holding his own at double-A when he offered at a pitch, but ended up with a fractured hamate bone instead. He missed roughly a month-and-a-half with the injury and when he returned he took his first hacks in the Gulf Coast League. He had 18 plate appearances in the GCL and posted a .133/.278/.133/.411 with 2 hits and no extra base hits.

Overall, Yonder posted a .292/.374/.464 in 2009. It was solid production, but for a collegiate prospect and one of the most polished hitters in the draft, it was mildly disappointing, especially in light of the performance of fellow draftees Gordon Beckham, Justin Smoak, and others.


Yonder is patient and utilizes a very effective approach at the plate. He controls the strikezone very effectively and shows the rare ability to work deep into counts. His ability to minimize the number of times he forces consequences to at bats on "pitcher's pitches" enables him to effectively tip the probability of success in his favor. He waits for a pitch he likes and makes sure that he doesn't miss it when he gets it. His pitch recognition skill is very strong, as indicated by his remarkably strong K/BB ratio. In addition, he has very good hand-eye coordination, which enables him to make consistent, hard contact.

At the plate, Yonder utilizes a fairly quiet stance. He doesn't have much excess movement while waiting for the pitch. While the stance matters far less than hitting position when the pitch enters the hitting zone, I still prefer a quiet approach.

Yonder is another player who utilizes a very small stride. His stance is wider than shoulder width, so his stride doesn't entail much forward movement. However, it does involve movement towards home plate. Yonder uses a slightly open stance, so his stride operates to close up his body and get into better hitting position.

While waiting for the pitch, Yonder holds his hands a bit higher than most, actually up behind his left ear. This position results in the bat being essentially horizontal to the ground, rather than pointing to the sky like most hitters. He also uses a high back elbow and utilizes a small bat waggle which raises the bat straight up from horizontal towards vertical. The combination of his higher hand position and his high back elbow gives him a bit of additional length to his swing, as it takes him slightly longer to draw his hands back into hitting position so he can properly fire his swing.

When coupled with his higher hand position, Yonder's stride in towards home plate makes him more comfortable driving pitches that are middle away. When a hitter steps towards homeplate to close up his stance, it's often possible for a pitcher to be successful working in on the hands, especially when the hitter has a bit of additional length in the early stages of his swing. Striding in towards the plate and the delay in getting his hands back into hitting position makes it difficult for him to be quick to the ball on pitches on the inner half.

If Yonder can shorten his swing path on inside pitches, it should help unlock his pull power. Regardless, his bat speed and slight uppercut swing generate substantial power. He fires the hips to generate power and gets good extension through the ball.

Yonder's well-rounded hitting skills made him one of the top talents available in the 2008 draft. You can access his draft video here.

Here is a video clip of Yonder at the plate during the Arizona Fall League:

Another thing evident from the video clip is Alonso's physical build. He has a stocky build with heavy, thick legs and something of a barrel chest. He lacks quickness and agility, which shows in his heavy feet and will preclude him from making an impact with his legs.


In drafting Yonder, the Reds selected the best player available, despite the fact that they already had a good young first baseman locked in at the MLB level. He was an interesting draft pick for the Reds in that they had focused primarily on the premier defensive positions in recent drafts, including Drew Stubbs and Devin Mesoraco. In drafting Yonder, they targeted an impact bat, despite lacking a position for him to play.

So far in his professional career, Yonder has played first base. While holding down first base, Yonder has consistently posted "Runs/150" numbers of between +1 and +3 at each stop, which rates him as an average first baseman.

Still, he will always be an "offense first" type player and he likely won't age well, as his body type will slow him down further as he continues to fill out and add weight. Overall, his range will always be limited and playing at any position other than firstbase will likely be unworkable.

Interestingly enough, the plan for Yonder in the 2010 season is for him to shift to leftfield for double-A Carolina. It's too soon for any early returns, but his body type and limited defensive abilities make it a somewhat dubious proposition. Ultimately, Yonder profiles best at firstbase and attempts to shift him to a different defensive position will cut into his total value.

For some reason, the Reds seem hesitant to trade Yonder for a player of similar value, but one who better fits the needs of the organization. If Yonder if forced to play out of position, then his defensive limitations will drag down the value of his bat. To justify playing Yonder in leftfield his bat would have to generate so much production that it would offset the runs given away by his shoddy glove work.

Overall, the Reds would likely be better off playing a better defensive player in left, even if his bat was somewhat less productive than Yonder's.


Alonso remains the most well-rounded hitter in a farm system suddenly flush with pitching prospects. His bat is intriguing and Alonso is just the type of hitter lacking in the Reds lineup. The Reds need more hitters who are disciplined and willing to work deeper into the count. Unfortunately, his main position is already occupied, which ultimately could necessitate a trade.

Given his likely struggles to play a competent leftfield, a trade is probably the best solution. However, that may have to wait until Yonder rebuilds his trade value after the hamate bone fracture sapped his power and production.

For now, his offensive skills are sufficient to land him at #1 on the list.


  1. i see you made a 0 for chapman lol good idea.

    If Alonso can handle left i think it would actually up his value... IF he can play it close to avg. so far reports have been mixed but he is a hard worker and is really focusing on it

    still i cant help but hope for a trade, or to go back and draft smoak instead. who would you target in a trade lark?

  2. I'v only heard good things about Alonsos defense in left feild. I also heard that the reason Alonso is playing left and not Votto is because the orginization does not belive Votto has enough arm strength for the outfeild.

  3. Smitty,


    I had no choice. I had to add a "0" to the list. I already had my list created and the bottom half of the write-ups complete when the Reds signed Aroldis. So, to accommodate another guy I had to add a spot.

    I can guarantee that Aroldis will land in either the 0 or 5 spot. ;)

    As for Yonder, I'm not optimistic about his chances in left, but time will tell.


  4. Anon,

    I haven't heard anything great or terrible about Yonder's defense. It's just too early to draw any conclusions.

    I've got my concerns, as from what I've seen Yonder simply doesn't move very well. He doesn't seem to move well laterally or have good speed/quickness. I just don't see it working, but I'd love to be wrong.

    As for Votto, I just don't think you mess with him. He had an amazing offensive season in 2009 and shifting defensive positions could derail his offensive game.

    Frankly, I'm not convinced either Votto or Yonder can handle leftfield at a competent level. If I had to bet on it, I'd wager on Votto. Still, I'm a believer in defense and run prevention, so I'm not convinced that the added value Yonder would bring with the bat would make up for the additional runs he would allow on defense.

    Anyway, time will certainly tell.

    Thanks for the comment!


  5. Smitty,

    I'm not sure who I would target for Yonder at this point. I'm a big Michael Taylor fan, so he's the guy I'd probably go after. Also, Yonder's on-base skills might be of interest to the A's. In addition, Taylor would be a better value in leftfield than Yonder would be playing out of position. Not to mention, Taylor's righthanded bat would work better in a lineup that already features Bruce and Votto.

    So, I'd definitely kick the tires on Taylor, but the A's may be reluctant to part with him.

    Another guy I'd target, though not with Yonder, would be Chris Iannetta. The Rockies just demoted him, so he's probably priced to move. I've always liked his well-rounded hitting skills and a change of scenery could help him get back on track. He's only 27 and could be a nice bat at a premier defensive position.

    Anyway, thanks for the comment!


  6. Id be interested in Taylor, do you think they would take Alonso straight up for him?

    Would you slot Taylor in the 4 hole in between Votto and Bruce?

    Iannetta would be a steal if we could get him, ive always liked him alot.

  7. Smitty,

    I really don't know. The ship might have already set sail on Taylor. I'm sure Beane would love Yonder's approach at the plate, but I'm not sure he fits in to their 25-man roster as well as Taylor. They already have a hulking slugger limited to 1b/dh in Chris Carter. Unless they have soured on Daric Barton, they probably wouldn't want to have yet another 1b type in the mix.

    Still, Taylor is a guy I would have gone after when he was with the Phillies and I'd still go after him now that he's with the A's.

    I think he'd be a great fit in leftfield and the 4th spot in the order. A 3-4-5 of Votto/Taylor/Bruce would be pretty special.

    As for Iannetta, I think he'd be a great fit for us. We don't have a catcher of the present. Mesoraco is ripping the ball in the minors and is working to reestablish his prospect status in the eyes of the mainstream media.

    Still, give me a guy like Iannetta, who understands how to control the strikezone and has some good pop in his bat.

    Anyway, adding both those guys to our roster would pay significant dividends.

    Thanks for the comment!


  8. Good stuff as always Lark although I didn't see anything in there with regards to hitting LHP which he hasn't done real well with yet. He seems to see the ball ok from that side as his BB rate is fine but he hits an inordinate amount of GB's vs. them (45.6%) resulting in a .212 BA (.268 BABIP). My guess he is topping the low and away fastball and/or slider an awful lot.

    As far as LF is concerned I'd agree with Lark on this as well. Neither is ideal for LF Votto would be better I think and don't know why his arm wouldn't be adequate given some of the arms in MLB at that position and his history (former catcher). However like Lark I don't mess with Votto his offense and his defense is more than fine.

    As far as a trade goes at one point (before the Chapman acquisition) I was thinking an Alonso for Wade Davis of the Rays deal made some sense (and it still wouldn't hurt). However I think we have enough depth that we could honestly look at offense for offense. I also like Alonso for Desmond Jennings as a starting parameter. Jennings is a guy who can be that CF/leadoff hitter or with Stubbs being here you could put Jennings in LF and have him leadoff. I'd also find some way to include Reid Brignac in that deal, perhaps an arm like Ondrusek/Bray/Fisher (preferably Ondrusek for me) would level out the deal nicely.

    Also in addition to that deal the Rockies do make some sense as well. I like the Ianetta idea and I might go Alonso and Brandon Phillips for Eric Young Jr (2B/leadoff) and Ianetta. They may get a bit better value overall but BP will soon be making quite a bit of money and Alonso is already on a major league contract as well. Maybe we could slip Barmes/Spilborghs in there as well for depth at SS/CF. Lots of ways to go about things but these deals make some sense to me.


  9. whats up lark? been a while

  10. Lark what do you think about bringing kearns back? His defense in left would be nice and he is killing the ball this year. Id much rather have him than nix or gomes even with the drop in power, and with laporta needing a spot for the Indians we could get him cheap. Would you be interested?

  11. Will,

    I didn't break Yonder's performance down by his splits in part because I'm not sure the sample size is really large enough to be indicative of anything concrete. But, you did post some interesting stats. I do expect him to struggle against southpaws, as that is pretty commonplace for lefthanded hitting prospects. Yonder has been a bit up and down in his career, especially with the hamate bone fracture, so he's not the easiest grade.

    As for a trade with the Rays, they certainly have a lot of quality talent. I agree with your assessment that we don't really need more pitching at this point, as remarkable as it is to say that about the organization.

    I, too, like Desmond Jennings, but I'd be amazed if you get Desmond Jennings for Yonder Alonso. Desmond is just the more intriguing prospect all the way around. He's got more positional value, more defensive skills, and better speed. I just don't think the values of the two are equivalent, especially with Yonder's less than overwhelming early professional career.

    Interestingly enough, I read a chat with one of the Baseball America guys (Jim Callis, I think) who suggested that a Yonder Alonso for Reid Brignac would be fair and beneficial to both sides. I think that speaks somewhat to Yonder's trade value. It's just not as high as we might hope, as he really hasn't been dominant with the bat and he will always be an offense-first prospect. Additionally, Desmond will likely be making his debut in Tampa very soon to help with the playoff push. Not sure how Yonder would help them win THIS year.

    As for the Rockies, I still really do like the Iannetta idea. Spillborghs has also intrigued me for the last couple of seasons. He's got a nice, well-rounded offensive game and solid defensive skills. He'd be an interesting fit for us in leftfield and could add a tough out to a lineup that is short on them.

    Iannetta and Spillborghs? I could live with that.

    Anyway, thanks for the comment!!


  12. Anon,

    Yeah, I'm almost done with my Chris Heisey write-up. A heavy workload at work, some massive computer problems, and a touch of writer's block have conspired against me as of late. But, Heisey should be up tomorrow.


  13. Smitty,

    Man, I had high hopes for Kearns back when he was in our farm system. I thought he had a chance to be a .300+, 30 HR, 100 RBI kinda of talent. Less power, but more well-rounded at the plate than Dunn.

    Unfortunately, injuries seemed to derail him completely. Ray King sat on his shoulder and constant hand injuries seemed to rob him of his hitting skills. In fact, his swing seemed to change to the point where he had a hitch and more holes than he had in years past.

    I haven't seen much of him this year, but his performance has been ridiculous. He is hitting line drives at a 31.5% clip, which is ridiculous. His BABIP is an equally absurd .442, which may actually be rather sustainable if you are hitting line drives at such a high rate.

    Personally, I'm just not sold on Kearns to the point where I'd be willing to give up much to get him. The Tribe will probably want something of value for him, but I'd need a larger sample size before I'd be willing to trade for him.

    I'd rather just go with in-house options for left at this point. I wish Kearns well, but I'm not ready to welcome him back to the organization.

    Of course, if he keeps hitting...

    Anyway, thanks for the comment!!


  14. Lark,

    I think heard that Callis idea before as well. My thinking on the subject though is #1 you always aim high based on the current state of things so I'd offer Alonso for Desmond now telling TB that this offer will not be there when his power comes back (the great equalizer in this deal) which it should around mid to late season. I think he can help them this year with that bat (assuming his power does come back, I think it will). And more importantly the always cost conscious Rays will see the potential value beyond this season. At years end both Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena are FA's IIRC, I think being able to afford to keep Crawford while having Alonso would trump the alternatives. In essence I wouldn't make an Alonso for Brignac deal and would request more for an Alonso for Jennings deal.

    Power is always at a premium in baseball and I would sell the idea that Alonso is a potential .300 BA, .400 OBP% 30+ HR guy. He may not ever reach those heights but he has the talent and skillset to potentially be that guy. And if he does Jennings would have to be a pretty dynamic guy to match his worth to a team. He also has the potential to be that dynamic guy but he too has his question marks (one being his swing mechanics are a bit funky). Right now I think an Alonso + a young relief arm is a fair offer for Jennings and Brignac IF it's sold right. It probably won't be quite enough to get it done but I think it's close enough that we could come to an agreement eventually for not much more than that. And if they don't believe Yonder has that kind of value well I'd hold off and expect him to raise his value later on. Ya just don't want to sell low unless you can get what you want.

    On Kearns I agree with ya his BABIP and LD rates are ludicrous at this point and I don't expect those trends to continue. I liked him at one time but I think in this case the phrase "You can't go home again" applies. Not sure it would work out to bring him back to Redsland.


    P.S. Keep an eye on those LH splits for Yonder and keep an eye out for his power to start to return/improve about mid to late season.

  15. Will,

    Interesting thoughts. I have no problem with offering up Alonso for Jennings. I'd love to see the Rays jump on it. I just don't think they will. I really don't think Alonso will be ready to help anyone at the major league level this season, especially a team in the AL East contending for the playoffs.

    Still, you make a good point about impending free agents Carlos Pena and Carl Crawford. However, you can also make the argument for keeping Jennings, letting Crawford walk, and resigning Pena to play first. It works either way.

    On Alonso, I must admit to being a bit worried. I'm just not wild about what he has done to this point. I'm holding out hope that it was just a slow first half followed by a subsequent hamate bone injury that is holding down his production. But, he hasn't hit the ground running quite like I expected. Still, I suppose it's unfair to expect him to produce like Smoak or G.Beckham, but given his polished hit tool that is probably what I expected from him.

    I'll keep an eye on the splits and hope the power emerges at some point.

    As for Kearns, as I recall the fan base wasn't all that pleased with him when he was finally dealt out of town. Personally, I'm just not ready to roll the dice on him being back on his projected career path. He may well be, but the chances that he'll turn back into a pumpkin are too much for me to want to risk it.

    Anyway, thanks for the comment!