Yonder Alonso: Big-league timber
By John Fay • firstname.lastname@example.org
• April 5, 2009
Yonder Alonso's last act before he was optioned to Double-A Carolina was to hit a home run to straightaway center field in Clearwater, Fla.
It was the kind of home run that gets people's attention - a line drive that went 410 feet.
Alonso's bat was too good for the Reds to pass up in last June's draft. They picked him seventh overall and signed him to a $4.55 million, big-league contract. That basically means he has to be in the big leagues by 2011.
The Reds did that despite having a young, left-handed-hitting first baseman in the fold in Joey Votto.
Alonso is polished as a hitter. He hit .343 over 188 games at the University of Miami. He walked 170 times and struck out 100 times over his career.
Alonso was 6-for-19 with Single-A Sarasota last year after signing.
He hit .308 with four home runs and 21 RBI in 29 games in the Hawaii Winter League.
Alonso's brief stint in the big-league camp - he went 2-for-8 with a walk, a double, the home run and a hit-by-pitch - taught him he won't be able to survive by his bat alone.
"It helped me a lot," Alonso said. "It showed me that it's not just about hitting. Your hitting might not always be there, but you help the team by running the bases right, making a pickup at first to avoid an error, playing the game right."
Fielding and baserunning are the aspects of Alonso's game that must catch up with his bat.
"He needs some work," minor-league instructor Bill Doran said. "But he's a hard-working kid. He's come a long way in a short period of time, especially defensively. Everyone knows he can swing the bat. But he works equally as hard defensively as he does in the cage."
Alonso is enjoying the gig as a full-time baseball player. "I'm having a blast," he said, "playing every day, getting to hit every day."
Using a wood bat, instead of aluminum, can be a big adjustment for players coming into the pros.
Not for Alonso.
"It hasn't been, really," he said. "I've been hitting the ball well. I'm really hitting some balls hard."
Doran said Alonso has been a delight to work with.
"He's a talented kid with a great work ethic," Doran said. "That's a real nice combination."