During his last 23 plate appearances, Mets 1B Pete Alonso has eight hits, including two doubles, five home runs and 10 RBI, which is an incredible stretch for any player let alone a rookie.
The common talking point among former players on TV and radio is that Alonso is reminiscent of and has the potential to be the next Aaron Judge or Joey Gallo.
However, Bobby Valentine - former Mets manager and current executive director of athletics at Sacred Heart University - told me he believes Alonso is showing signs of having a pitch recognition more like Joey Votto than either Judge or Gallo.
"It's early, but given the high pressure and the spin on the pitches that he's seeing, he's been under control, which is a good sign for a young man with those expectations," Valentine explained.
For what it's worth, to date, Votto has played 13 seasons, and produced 60 WAR across more than 1500 games at one position. He has six All-Star appearances, dozens of MVP votes, multiple 30 home run-100 RBI campaigns, close to 2,000 hits, and a career .420 OBP. To put those numbers in context, they would make for the most productive hitter in Mets history, with the franchise's second-most RBI and OBP as well as their franchise record in home runs.
The point is, even if we'd like to imagine Alonso's first 13 seasons being on par with Albert Pujols, if he can be as good as Votto, but with slightly more power, I'll happily take it...
The only black mark to date on Alonso's resume at the plate is striking out in 30 percent of his at-bats. However, when launching baseballs like Barry Bonds, dropping them in play like Tony Gwynn and driving runners home like Miguel Cabrera, strikeouts are easy to ignore. More importantly, though, there appears to be no hole in his swing. There's literally no place a pitcher can go right now where Alonso isn't making contact.
"His approach is to hit it over the wall in center field," Valentine added. "So, the inside pitch doesn't come in to play for him. It's just not part of his program."
That said, to further confirm his read, Valentine said it will be interesting to see how Alonso responds when pitchers begin working him in and off the plate, especially if it results in a few hit-by-pitches.
"If he's plunked a few times or his ego gets involved, something like that could throw him off his current approach, but so far that hasn't happened and, when it has, he's been able to lay off," Valentine concluded.
Alonso is currently on pace to end this season with 13.0 WAR, according to FanGraphs, which almost certainly will not happen because he has a super high .455 BABIP; it's the big leagues and it's natural for rookies to become a tad burned out as the season rolls along. Lastly, at some point, pitchers will adjust (even if just temporarily), especially since (despite all of his early-season success) he has struck out at that high percentage.
That said, I still expect him to win Rookie of the Year, just as I did during Spring Training.
At this point, he's going to hit 30 home runs and be an elite first baseman by the end of this season - even if he deals with a bit of regression, a dose of reality, and slight fatigue.
The good news is that he's seeing a similar repertoire of pitches being thrown to other first baseman in the league, regardless if they're rookies or veterans. He has not seen many curveballs.
"I recall him being susceptible to spin off the plate, which I don't think he is seeing from big-league pitchers right now," an MLB advanced scout watching the Mets told me earlier this week. "At some point, they will and it'll be his first, true big test. Until then, because he's so strong and so quick with his hands and wrists and he's so quiet with his movements, he'll just rake and rake."
All things considered, through 12 games, he has done a better-than-expected job making contact with pitches in the strike zone, though it's worth noting that among NL first baseman he has the most swings and misses. Similarly, he has struggled to connect when swinging at pitches out of the strike zone, which he's going to see more of eventually when hitting with less protection in the lineup.
Thankfully, when he does connect, he absolutely clobbers the ball. And because he hits it so hard, he will probably always have a high batting average on balls put in play.
"He has a good eye, but he's young and young players called up typically struggle there," the same scout told me. "He'll improve as he sees more pitching and gets more comfortable in the big-league box. He has shown the discipline at other stages of his career to turn that around and probably one day lead that position in walks."
The point being, despite the eye-popping results, there is actually room for him to improve and make more contact than he has to date, which should be exciting for Mets fans and absolutely terrifying for the National League.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is lead writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. He also hosts the MetsBlog Podcast, which you can subscribe to here. His new book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime. To check it out, click here!