The most terrifying hitter on the A’s right now is Yonder Alonso. And now I need a year of shock therapy to get over writing that sentence.
Alonso never lacked pedigree. Nine years ago, the Reds made him the No. 7 overall pick in the draft, envisioning a live-drive machine who would contend for multiple batting titles, albeit with merely so-so power for a first baseman. Didn’t happen. Alonso topped .300 just once in his major league career, that in a 47-game cameo back in 2011. And rather than so-so power, he offered about as much pop as a backup catcher, his nine homers in 155 games in 2012 standing as his high-water mark.
This year, everything changed. Hoping to turn around a lackluster career as he entered his age-30 season, Alonso started working on the kind of swing-for-the-fences approach that made slugging kings out of players like Josh Donaldson and Mark Trumbo, and triggered a late-career renaissance for Ryan Zimmerman. He’s authored a huge jump in his flyball rate, a huge drop in his groundball rate, and he’s making hard contact a lot more frequently—all great ways to improve hitting performance, especially hitting for power.
Saturday night against the Tigers, Alonso launched not one but two home runs. Then on Sunday, he smashed another. That raised his season total to nine, tying that career high. He’s batting .311/.386/.667, ranking 12th in the AL in on-base percentage, third in slugging, and fourth in homers. And while his close-your-eyes-and-bash approach has predictably led to a spike in strikeouts (he’s whiffing at a career-high 21.8%), he still ranks ninth in the AL in batting average too.
Who knows, maybe Alonso finally will win that long-promised batting title. And hit 35 bombs in the process.