Indians Fill First-Base Void with Yonder Alonso
The Indians have signed Yonder Alonso to a two-year deal to play first base and potentially see some time at DH. The signing improves his value a bit and helps alleviate the loss of Carlos Santana, who signed with the Phillies last week.
Yonder’s 2018 talent level is tough to put a finger on. Last year he hit .266 with a career-best 28 home runs. The batting average is right in line with his career .268 batting average, but the home runs were more than the previous four years combined (6, 7, 5, 7). Yonder became a poster child for the flyball revolution, as he raised his FB% from 33% in 2016 to 43% last year. With the increase, his HR/FB jumped to 19%.
Even though a major change occurred, most happened in the season’s first half. From the first half to the second half, Alonso’s FB% dropped from 49% to 36%. His HR/FB declined from 22% to 15%. With these drops, his ISO dropped from .287 to .166. The second-half values nearly mirror his career stats.
Fantasy owners should probably pick a point somewhere in between his blah 2016 season and the MVP-caliber first half of 2017. It’s a guess at this point to determine exactly where he ends up in 2018.
For his team-related value, it’s headed up, but not by much. Using my recently created lineup tool, I ran Alonso’s projected plate appearances, runs, and RBI totals. They basically stay the same because he will likely bat fifth or lower for a better Indians offense, while he got extra plate appearances while batting between third and fifth for Oakland. Additionally, he moves from a pitchers’ park to one that favors hitters a bit. In particular, Progressive Field is much more favorable to left-handed power than the Oakland Coliseum.
The player taking the biggest hit in playing time will be Francisco Mejia, who will now be slated to start in the minors. The Indians have a little offensive surplus with Mejia, Michael Brantley (when healthy) and the emergence of Yandy Diaz. All of the Indians hitters may see their plate appearances drop, as playing time is at a premium.
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