As the Mets struggle through a nearly team-wide rough patch, the young Peter Alonso is smashing expectations with Double-A Binghamton and rapidly entering the conversation of how the Mets should handle first base.
Since being drafted in the second round in 2016, Alonso -- a right-handed hitting first baseman -- has seen success everywhere he's played. After putting up an .878 OPS with High-A St. Lucie in 2017, he made a short but impressive Double-A debut, hitting .311 over 11 games. But his 2018 numbers, at just 23 years old, have been nothing less than eye-popping. In 98 plate appearances over 22 games, he's slashing .400/.500/.788 with seven doubles, eight home runs, and almost as many walks as strikeouts.
Scouting reports have always looked positively on Alonso's offense, particularly his potential for power. He has put to rest early doubts of his ability to harness that potential as he has improved at every level, even while losing time to a hand injury last year. There have been questions about his abilities at first base, particularly due to his unusual profile as a right-handed thrower. But the Mets like what they're seeing as he develops, with Sandy Alderson noting "Not only has he hit well, but his defense has apparently improved quite a bit."
Alonso has largely flown under the radar as Dominic Smith has outpaced him in buzz and in prospect rankings. But a disappointing debut from Smith and a slow start for him in Triple-A this year has aligned with Alonso's explosion to bring the right-hander into the forefront of the discussion over how the Mets should manage first base.
Throughout Alderson's tenure, the Mets have generally been systematic in their approach to player promotions, ensuring that a player had fully mastered each level before proceeding to the next. Michael Conforto's surprise debut in 2015 remains notable as an exception to this rule, though it was a move largely precipitated by desperation as much as a recognition of a potential star quality in the young slugger.
First base is an open question for the Mets this season, with neither Smith nor Adrian Gonzalez making a clear case for themselves as the answer for the 2018 season. Gonzalez has put up roughly league average offensive output, though that's not sufficient in the long term at first base.
Smith has been inconsistent in Triple-A this season, showing very little power, though he has shown signs in recent days of beginning to right the ship. The best first baseman on the 40 man roster right now may be Wilmer Flores, but he too has started the year poorly. And the team has always preferred to keep him in a utility role.
So what does this mean for Alonso's future?
Normally, you'd expect an imminent promotion with this kind of domination in Double-A, but Smith needs to be playing in Triple-A every day. The team has no intention of giving up on Smith, nor should they, as he is still just 22 years old -- younger even than Alonso. If Gonzalez were to become such an extreme liability that the Mets had no choice but to cut him loose, promoting Alonso straight to the majors would certainly be an option on the table, though likely not the Mets' first choice -- on account of both their development style as well as their roster management style.
In the case of a sudden need, such as an injury, Smith is still likely to get first consideration. But Alonso is making a statement and the front office is listening. "He's certainly put himself on the map," said Alderson.
Maggie Wiggin (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Archive Posts) has been a Mets fan since birth and a MetsBlog contributor since 2013. She loves throwing hard and hitting hard and hates the DH. When baseball is out of season, she fills her days with data analysis and evaluation and patiently waits for Spring