No, I don’t mean the ankle Yonder Alonso tweaked on a sprinkler head. The injury is minor and he should be fine. The issue I’m referring to is the fact that he has shown himself to be everything the Reds expected, but not much of what they need.
Scott Rolen is likely out for the season, and was batting only .242 with a measly 5 dingers and 36 RBIs in 269 plate appearances before he was sidelined. Yes, he had nagging injuries all year, but at age 36 the Reds should not be assuming he will regain form next year. They miss his power in the middle of the lineup. They need production there, and it wouldn’t hurt to have better protection for Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips either.
Enter Alonso, one of the Reds’ top prospects coming into the season and a guy with some zing in his bat. Though his career HR totals in the minors have never been elite, he is a reliable doubles hitter. He is that RBI guy for the middle of the Reds’ lineup, Rolen 2.0, at the plate.
But he’s also a first baseman, and the Reds need Joey Votto in the lineup even more. Despite his best effort, Alonso is not a left fielder. At least, not a prototypical one, and that’s being generous. It’s no knock on the guy. He tries. But he has looked hesitant at times, turned a double into an inside-the-park home run, and injured himself going after a routine fly. And that was in just six games as a starter. Square peg, meet round hole.
Now, the Reds think maybe he is a third baseman. He played it growing up, but never as a pro. It’s possible it could work, but the odds are stacked very heavily against him, as Grant Bisbee of Baseball Nation very thoroughly pointed out.
Give the Reds credit for persistence though. If it doesn’t work out, don’t be surprised if they next try him out in the rotation while Bronson Arroyo recovers from his mono, back problems, carpal tunnel, lupus, scurvy and voodoo curses.
The Reds’ struggles this year have been largely due to the struggles of Jonny Gomes, Rolen and Arroyo, according to Reds beat writer John Fay. My only quibble would be to add lack of a true leadoff hitter to the list.
Alonso solves exactly 1/2 or 1/4 those deficiencies. He could be counted on to replace Rolen’s bat. That’s it.
Recent minor-league callup Dave Sappelt had a fantastic debut in left field and as a leadoff hitter. It was a small sample size, but his career .316 batting average in AAA makes you think he could be a legit answer for two of this teams’ issues. Todd Frazier has done a great job both offensively and defensively since being called up to play third, but there are questions about his presence in the lineup long term.
Maybe, with a lot of hard work and some tutelage from Rolen, Alonso could become a close-to-average third baseman and be a shot in the arm to the lineup for the long haul, at least in a platoon situation with Rolen next year. But with his rookie contract set to expire after next season, the Reds don’t really have the luxury of waiting to find out.
Instead, The Reds should trade him in the offseason, prefereably for a young, solid third baseman, or, packaged with one of our pitchers not-named Cueto or Chapman, for a possible second ace in our starting rotation.
For now at least, it sounds like he won’t be getting any more starts in left. Let’s hope they keep showcasing him primarily as a bat off the bench, where he can focus on his strength and not get hurt.