Pete Alonso Expectations Set At Unfair Level

Pete Alonso came into Spring Training ready to compete for the Mets first base job. With every passing day, he has strengthened his case by showing off his power in games. Certainly, seeing his hitting this Spring has enough to get everyone excited, but the expectations being set for him are unfair and potentially completely unrealistic.

For example, Alonso faced Framber Valdez in the first inning in yesterday’s game against the Houston Astros. Valdez is a two pitch left-handed pitcher who throws the ball in the low 90s. He’s also a pitcher who effectively put the ball on a tee for Alonso, who predictably obliterated the pitch:

Really, it doesn’t matter where the pitch was. Alonso got a pitch to hit, and he absolutely crushed it. Frankly, Valdez is lucky the ball did not go over the wall. In terms of evaluating Alonso, the takeaway here was he can hit mistakes hard and far. Unfortunately, that was not the takeaway from WCBS‘ Wayne Randazzo. No, during the game, Randazzo would go so far as to compare Alonso to Paul Goldschmidt.

When we have reached the point of comparing Alonso to a perennial MVP candidate, we have gone way too far in setting expectations for Alonso. While many people have not been specifically citing Goldschmidt as a comparable, many Mets fans are expecting him to have similar production at the plate in 2019.

While it is not exactly, the most scientific approach, Mets fans were asked on Twitter to present their expectations of what they believe Alonso’s stats will be if he begins the season as the Opening Day first baseman. After weeding out some of the more humorous responses, Mets fans are expecting big things from Alonso. On average, fans are expecting Alonso to hit .258 with 27 homers and 81 RBI.

This is actually lower than the “crowd-sourced” projections from Fangraphs. Based upon those results, Alonso would be viewed as a top three offensive first baseman in all of baseball with him hitting .258/.355/.526 with 31 homers and 92 RBI.

The respective averages have Alonso hitting .258 with 27 homers and 81 RBI. That would eclipse Darryl Strawberry‘s rookie year which is the gold standard for Mets rookies. In 1983, Strawberry hit .257/.336/.512 with 26 homers and 74 RBI in 122 games. Overall, he had a 131 wRC+ and 2.7 WAR in a season where he would become the only Mets position player to win Rookie of the Year.

Seeing Alonso’s 2018 season and his play during Spring Training, it is not a stretch to believe he could replicate the offensive season Strawberry had over 30 years ago. However, while it is not a stretch, the projections  do not foresee Alonso playing anywhere near that level:

THE BAT .222/.301/.416, 20 HR, 58 RBI
ATC .242/.327/.447, 23 HR, 66 RBI
Depth Charts .240/.322/.454, 22 HR, 56 RBI
Steamer .241/.319/.458, 24 HR, 57 RBI
ZiPS .239/.324/.450, 24 HR, 64 RBI

Taking the five projection systems into account, the general consensus is Alonso will hit .237 with 23 homers and 60 RBI.

Projection systems are not always correct, but they are useful. As Fangraphs espouses, the projection systems aim to find the median outcome for a player. The goal is to take the data available and “use that data to make a valid inference about the future.” As noted, there are things projections cannot account for like adjustments at the plate and just general improvement as a ballplayer.

Overall, at the moment, we have no real idea as to what Alonso will be. Honestly, anywhere from THE BAT’s low-end projection to something in the 135+ wRC+ with 30+ homers are on the table with Alonso. He’s likely going to wind up somewhere between the two extremes in 2019. As for the upper limit, he has the talent and the drive to get there. The question is when he gets to that point.

As a fan, you should get excited about Alonso. We should dream of him becoming the next Goldschmidt. However, to saddle him with that type of comparable or to set that as his level of expectation is unfair, and if you’re expecting him to play at the level of a perennial MVP candidate, you’re setting him up to be a disappoitment. Instead, we should allow him to be Alonso and enjoy the hitter he is and will become. In the end, you should be impressed and happy with that player.

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