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Diving Into Pete Alonso’s 2020 Season – Polar Bear Plunge

After a dominant 2019 season, fantasy managers drafted Pete Alonso as a top-30 overall pick. According to NFBC ADP, his ADP ranged from as early as pick 11 to pick 66. With the perceived struggles in 2020, we expect his ADP to drop to a more reasonable range. Was Alonso’s career year in 2019 legitimate? Why did he struggle in 2020? What should we expect moving forward to 2021 and beyond? We’re diving into Pete Alonso’s 2020 season to find answers to the questions surrounding the Polar Bear. 

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Diving Into Pete Alonso’s 2020 Season

What Happened in 2020?

In 2020, Pete Alonso finished with 16 home runs, 31 runs, 35 RBI, and one steal with a triple slash of .231/.326/.490 in 239 plate appearances. It’s hard to replicate his 2019 season where he totaled 53 home runs, 103 runs, 120 RBI, and one steal while slashing .260/.358/.583 in 693 plate appearances. If we average out Alonso’s 2020 stats to a full season of plate appearances, it paces out to 48 home runs, 93 runs, and 105 RBI. That’s a productive season-long line for a power hitter like Alonso, and his batting average could hover around .250 over a full season. 

Batted Ball Profile – Diving Into Pete Alonso’s 2020 Season

First, let’s look at the similarities and differences between 2019 and 2020 with his batted ball profile. When diving into Pete Alonso’s strikeout and walk rate, it looked almost identical from 2019 and 2020 with a 10% walk rate and 25.5% strikeout this season. His .280 BABIP from 2019 dropped to a .242 BABIP in 2020, which aligns with the lowered batting average. 

In terms of his batted ball data, again, we see similarities outside of a one percent difference in line-drive rate and fly-ball rate. Alonso’s 16.9% line drive rate dropped about 1%, and his fly ball rate increased by 2.5%. His HR/FB rate decreased 6% to 24.6% down from 30.6% in 2019. Of course, Alonso still uses the pull-heavy approach at 43.2%. 

Plate Discipline – Diving Into Pete Alonso’s 2020 Season

The only notable change in plate discipline for Alonso includes a lowered O-Contact% at 54.2% that dropped down from 62% in 2019. He made more zone contact (85.6%) that increased from 83.4% in 2019, paired with a contact rate that lowered almost 2% down to 71.5% in 2020. Overall, this means Alonso made less contact, particularly outside of the zone. His plate discipline didn’t significantly affect his strikeout or walk rate, but we hope for a better OBP with a double-digit walk rate. 

Why the Drop in Pete Alonso’s Batting Average?

When looking at his splits in 2020 compared to 2019, Alonso struggled mightily against left-handed pitchers in 2020. Combine that with the lowered O-Contact percentage and Contact percentage overall – it likely contributed to a lower batting average through 239 plate appearances.

Diving into Pete Alonso's 2020 Season (3)

We notice that he crushed right-handed pitchers in 2019, and that trend continued in 2020. Interestingly, Alonso struggled in 2020 when facing lefties as a right-handed slugger. Over a full season, I expect his splits to even out in the batting-average department.

Statcast Data – Diving Into Pete Alonso’s 2020 Season 

When diving into Pete’s Alonso’s 2020 season, his Statcast data ranked lower than 2019 across the board. Although his 2020 hard-hit numbers fall in line with his 2019 stats, the main difference is where he ranks. Last season, Alonso’s 41.2% hard-hit rate ranked in the 61st percentile compared to a 42.7% hard-hit rate that ranked in the 72nd percentile. Although his 12.8% barrel rate ranked in the 84th percentile, Alonso had a 15.8% barrel rate that ranked in the top 3% of the league in 2019. His 90.7 mph average exit velocity in 2019 and 90.2 mph average exit velocity in 2020 ranked in the top 30%. 

The table below shows the notable differences in his Statcast data in the last two years.

Diving into Pete Alonso's 2020 Season (2)

Alonso’s expected stats also look significantly different from 2019 to 2020. The amount of red associated with Alonso’s expected stats jumps off the page when comparing both seasons. In 2019, Alonso’s .545 xSLG (89th percentile) and .379 xwOBA (88th percentile) being the most notable. Last season, his .466 xSLG ranked in the 69th percentile, and .322 xwOBA ranked in the 55th percentile. When comparing his expected stats to his actual statistics, we notice similarities once again, meaning it describes his career 2019 season and struggles in 2020. 

  • 2019: .258 xBA, .545 xSLG, .379 xwOBA
  • 2020: .227 xBA, .466 xSLG, .322 xwOBA

Pitch Type Struggles

Next, let’s look at how he fared against fastballs, breaking balls, and offspeed pitches. Alonso struggled in terms of batting average and slugging percentage against fastballs in 2020. Against fastballs in 2019, he had a .294 batting average and .669 slugging percentage. Meanwhile, in 2020, Alonso had a .243 batting average and .513 slugging against fastballs. The percentage distribution of pitches seen by Alonso didn’t change much, but maybe he struggled with timing on the fastball due to the unusual offseason.

Not surprisingly, Alonso’s batting average and slugging percentage dropped against breaking balls compared to 2019 while the whiff rate increased in 2020. His .191 BA and .397 SLG was slightly different from his .203 BA and .418 SLG in 2019. Also, his 41.9% whiff rate increased from 37.4% in 2019. Although he only saw offspeed pitches 8.9% of the time, Alonso’s .280 BA, .640 SLG, and 42.9% whiff rate increased. It’s positive to see the increase in batting average and slugging against offspeed pitches, but the whiff rate jumped up 10% from 2019. Similar to other stats and metrics, there’s a possibility that these even out over a full season.

2021 Outlook

After diving into Pete Alonso’s 2020 season, what’s his 2021 outlook? Alonso is such a polarizing player with his raw power that’s clear in the maximum exit velocity ranking first and second the past two seasons. Even in a somewhat down year, Alonso’s average exit velocity on FB/LD ranks near the top and in good company near Kyle Schwarber and Freddie Freeman. He still barreled up the ball while his plate discipline and batted ball profile remained relatively the same. 

A couple of questions remain moving forward. Is Alonso worth a top-60 pick in 2021 drafts? Can he increase his batting average closer to his .260 BA in 2019? In fantasy baseball, we often find power and home runs later in drafts, cue up Luke Voit and Teoscar Hernandez in 2020. It depends on his 2021 ADP and whether or not you feel comfortable drafting players with similar skill sets at a later ADP. However, only five hitters reached 50 home runs over the last decade. The other four hitters – Giancarlo Stanton with 59 HR (2017), Jose Bautista with 54 HR (2010), Chris Davis with 53 HR (2013), and Aaron Judge with 52 HR (2017).

Fellow Fantrax writer Chris Clegg ranked Pete Alonso inside the top-40 in his rest of season hitter rankings. As mentioned previously, I believe over a full season that the dips in batting average and struggles even out to the .250 BA range. As we inch closer to the 2021 season, Alonso’s ADP likely falls in a more reasonable range, and maybe we take the Polar Bear plunge once again. 

The regular season just got over but we are already preparing for next year. Keep track of all our 2020-21 MLB Offseason Analysis.

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