What a difference a year makes.
This time in 2020, Mets fans thought the world revolved around Pete Alonso. Now there’s a portion of the fan base – 10%? 15%? 20%? – who advocate trading Alonso to play Dominic Smith at first base. Before we discuss that craziness, let’s see what the computer models are forecasting for Alonso.
ATC – 621 PA, .246/.340/.517, 40 HR, 101 RBIs
Marcel – 592 PA, .250/.347/.526, 39 HR, 93 RBIs
RotoCh – 616 PA, .252/.349/.544, 44 HR, 108 RBIs
Steamer – 634 PA, .242/.338/.515, 41 HR, 102 RBIs
THE BAT – 668 PA, .250/.342/.512, 41 HR, 107 RBIs
ZiPS – 616 PA, .246/.339/.524, 41 HR, 110 RBIs
For the most part, the models see very similar outcomes. THE BAT is the outlier with PA, while RotoChamp is the most bullish on SLG. But most of the others feel interchangeable, especially in the OBP department. Essentially, the computers see him as a .250 hitter with 40 HR. Everyone loved Alonso when he hit .260 with 53 HR in 2019. Should a drop of 10 points in AVG and 13 HR make him a serious trade candidate?
Let’s start with a few givens. Smith is really good, deserves to play and he’s likely to be better defensively than Alonso at first base. And those who advocate for trading Alonso aren’t suggesting giving him away for free, even if they are ready to deal him for 60 cents on the dollar.
But Smith can fake it in left field for a year. After that, it seems inevitable that the National League will adopt the DH and there’s room for both in the lineup. Even if that doesn’t happen, playing both Alonso and Smith in 2021 allows everyone to see if the former can bounce back to 2019 levels and if the latter can produce in a full season the way he did in partial years in 2019 and 2018. Maybe Smith’s trade value is never higher than it is now. It’s also possible that Alonso’s will never be lower.
One of the challenges that everyone from fantasy baseball enthusiasts to armchair GMs to front office executives has to deal with is how to interpret numbers put up in the wacky and shortened 2020 campaign. The stops and starts were bad enough but the 60-game season makes everything difficult to gauge.
Alonso had a tough start to the second half of 2019 but has enough time to not only recover but to thrive. He struggled in the beginning of 2020 and there wasn’t enough of a season to absorb the damage. In his last 39 games, Alonso had a .902 OPS despite a .229 BABIP. It just couldn’t make up for the .632 OPS he posted in his first 18 games of the season.
In his rookie year, Alonso had a .941 OPS. His closing kick to 2020 also had an OPS over .900 yet none of the six models above forecast that type of season. RotoChamp comes close with an .893 mark but the others have him in the .860 range, which comes close to splitting the difference between his 2019 mark and his 2020 output.
Because of the type of hitter he is, Alonso is unlikely to ever challenge the .368 BABIP that Smith put up in 2020. He might not ever post a .310 mark, either. But the .280 rate he put up in 2019 should be within his grasp. If Alonso can post a .902 OPS with a .229 BABIP – what would his overall numbers look like if the hits fell in at a reasonable rate? Here’s my totally biased prediction for Alonso:
663 PA, .255/.352/.575, 46 HR, 115 RBIs
If Alonso does put up those types of numbers, it should result in an OPS+ near the 147 mark that he put up in 2019. That’s also the same number that former Reds star Lee May put up in 1971. In the offseason before 1972, May was traded in a blockbuster that netted the team Joe Morgan. If the Mets do decide to trade Alonso, that’s the ballpark return that they would need.
You’ll have more credibility if you chime in now with what you think Alonso will do this season.