2011 Reds

Questions Over Yonder

(Ed: You may have noticed that we have featured a few new contributors over the last month or two. Today, we are finally getting around to publishing the latest from another newcomer. We’re happy to welcome Spencer Dennis to the fold.)

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.

15 thoughts on “Questions Over Yonder

  1. Just like the Phillips to SS debate, playing Alonso long term anywhere other than 1B is a non-starter. There are only 3 possible outcomes:
    1. Joey gets traded.
    2. Yonder gets traded.
    3. Votto moves to LF.

    Personally, I think Joey will get traded, which is sad because I think he would be an average defensive LF’er, w/ similar athleticism and arm strength as one of his contemporaries–Ryan Braun.

  2. Proposed idea… While I hate the idea of trading Votto cause he’s my favorite player, this deal would make total sense for the reds…

    Trade Votto and a low level prospect to the Jays for Bautista,

    We then play Bautista at third base, And Alonso at first

    Alonso gives us 60% of the production that Votto’s bat does… But twice as much as Rolen’s

    We then would be getting Bautista who is going to produce as much as votto, if not more especially in the power category (especially in GABP)

    That opens up left field for Either Frazier or Sappelt… Frazier if we need a solid number 6 hitter, or Sappelt if stubbs won’t work out in the lead off role. Bringing up Mesoraco soon after… and you’re looking at a lineup of

    Stubbs
    Cozart
    Bautista
    Bruce
    Alonso
    Phillips
    Frazier
    Mesoraco

    Now doesn’t that sound like a pretty darn good lineup right there?

    Mix and match what you will but it sounds like a legit idea… It makes sense for the Jays cause Votto is a hometown hero, they’d love him, and he loves them… Bautista may be older than Votto but his power numbers should remain for awhile.

    • Proposed idea… While I hate the idea of trading Votto cause he’s my favorite player, this deal would make total sense for the reds…

      Trade Votto and a low level prospect to the Jays for Bautista,

      We then play Bautista at third base, And Alonso at first

      Alonso gives us 60% of the production that Votto’s bat does… But twice as much as Rolen’s

      We then would be getting Bautista who is going to produce as much as votto, if not more especially in the power category (especially in GABP)

      That opens up left field for Either Frazier or Sappelt… Frazier if we need a solid number 6 hitter, or Sappelt if stubbs won’t work out in the lead off role. Bringing up Mesoraco soon after… and you’re looking at a lineup of

      Stubbs
      Cozart
      Bautista
      Bruce
      Alonso
      Phillips
      Frazier
      Mesoraco

      Now doesn’t that sound like a pretty darn good lineup right there?

      Mix and match what you will but it sounds like a legit idea… It makes sense for the Jays cause Votto is a hometown hero, they’d love him, and he loves them… Bautista may be older than Votto but his power numbers should remain for awhile.

      If (big if), the Reds were to make that trade Bautista would play left and fill in at 3rd for Rolen.

  3. while that makes sense, my bet is if theres a trade involving the jays, get brett lawrie, their highly touted third base prospect. mix n match, yonder and heisey, yonder and wood, yonder and grandal(though the jays have about a hundred catching prospects), or yonder and bailey. Then in two years, you have a lineup of

    Hamilton, 2nd base
    Sappelt, left field
    Votto, first
    Bruce, right
    Mesoraco, Catch
    Stubbs, center
    Lawrie, third
    Cozart, short

    with heisey on the bench, cueto chapman leake heading our rotation, and still a decent farm system (grandal, lotzkar, renken and future draft picks) the reds are a really young, consistent team, threatening to contend for years, while also giving yonder alonso what he deserves-a dh spot.

  4. 1. I hate the phrase “RBI Man.” An RBI Man is someone who has good hitters batting in front of him.

    2. There is some serious pessimism in the belief that we should trade Votto. He might re-sign, we don’t know. He refused a very long-term contract therefore, people assume he wants to leave. We should wait and see.

    3. The Bautista rumor that Fay floated has, as far as I have seen, nothing behind it. We don’t even know that the Jays would entertain that idea.

  5. I don’t know why folks see Alonso as the possibility of Alonso at 3B as a automatic nonstarter. Send him to fall league and see what happens.

    If he can field the position passably give him a shot at it. From what we’ve seen of both Francisco and Fazier at 3B neither of them look like the next Scott Rolen defensively either, so give the job to the guy that is going to produce the most offensively and live with his shortcomings until they see how the Votto contract situation resolves.

    The Reds put up with Tomy Perez at 3B for several years to avoid to having to choose prematrely between he and Lee May for the long haul. They even won a pennant with Tony at 3B.

    Based on what Votto has said on the matter so far, the surest way to make sure he will decide to leave the Reds ASAP is to send him to left field…..

  6. On another thing that’s a little off topic but has been mentioned above, Dave Sappelt is the lead off man looking to next year unless he has a Stubbsian two months in the spot closing out 2012. All the signs are there that this has been already decided.

    The remaining question is whether he plays defense primarily in LF or CF. I’d say they really want to see Stubbs become the RH outfield power bat and stay in CF.

    Frazier was the supersub in Louisville just about all year (until Francisco went down). I think that is his role next year with the Reds asuming he makes the team.

    One reason Alonso at 3B works if he can hack it defensibvely is that he then pairs nicely with Rolen as a LH/ RH hitting combination at 3B. Which ever man isn’t playing a particular day gives them a big bat off the bench.

    The right side of the field all made the All Star team in 2011, I just continue to ride them unless somebody knocks my sox off with a trade offer.

  7. Remember the core weeakness of this team is PITCHING, PITCHING PITCHING.

    Can’t say it loud enough.

    You can speculate about any dream lineup you care for but this team still needs PITCHING first and foremost. Any team that’s willing to give up proven starting pitching (as in a James Shields or other contemporary) can have Votto ( and the big contract that straps a team other than the Yanks or Sox ), Alonso, Stubbs or just about anyone else not named Cueto or Chapman.

    Because if the other team isn’t scoring you’re ahead of the game.

    As a GM, I would insist that he first 5 draft picks would be pitchers. Every year.

    It’s always easier to trade pitching for position players especially when you have extra pitching. Every team needs and wants it.

    The Reds have put themselves in the unenviable position of having to pay through the nose to get it.

    Smart teams such as the Rays and Giants are in such a position.

    the Reds should follow their example.

  8. Also, just to emphasize my point about the concept of the RBI Man – Sappelt and Alonso have very similar slugging percentages over the last couple of years. Because Alonso is slow, he is an RBI man.

  9. @Jason Linden: If the Reds were going to trade Votto, I much rather that a quality starting pitcher for him than a 3B who suddenly at 29 found his power stroke.

  10. The best thing Alonso can do for the Reds is get traded for an All-star starter. The pessimism over Votto only signing a 3 year deal is really a bit of jumping the gun. I believe he wants to stay. And considering how heavy the market is for firstbasemen is—-there is a lot of quality out there and quite a few of them have already signed long-term deals—-Votto might even find his best chance of winning a championship will be to stay in Cincinnati. Where else would he have a chance? Toronto? Baltimore?
    We should also look ahead at the manager and GM situation. I think a lot of us would agree Dusty Baker’s game plan is holding the team back. I mean, come on! Bunting with one out when the lead runner at 2B is HERNANDEZ? I think there is a good chance Baker does not last to the end of next year. Jocketty, meanwhile, has managed to make a couple decent trades, but has blundered when it comes to contracts. Mike Lincoln for 3 years, anyone?
    So there is a good chance that by the time Votto’s contract is up, there will be new management in place. There could be someone coming in who could work out a deal that evryone would be satisfied with. So it can’t hurt to be optimistic

  11. heres a thought

    it seems we hit on both mesoraco and grandal, but it wouldnt make sense to have 2 number one catchers take time away from each other. if grandals up to it, why not try him at third? catchers switch all the time. i feel like that makes more sense than yonder.

  12. No, no, no. When ever the Reds have two prospects that play the same position, they let them battle it out for years and years until neither prospect has any value left. Kearns/Pena, Frazier/Francisco….

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