Cody Bellinger stole the headlines in 2019 – helping his Dodgers win their second-straight NL pennant. Other star hitters like Christian Yelich, Mookie Betts, and Mike Trout are household names.
One slugger broke out last season but is not getting the respect and attention he deserves. This man was tucked away in the middle of a terrible lineup, playing for a team rarely featured in primetime. A mere rookie – this man put together one of the best power-hitting seasons in baseball history.
Introducing “Polar Bear” Pete Alonso of the New York Mets.
Alonso’s 53 rookie season homers shatters the previous NL rookie HR record of 39. Alonso’s 53 also edges Aaron Judge‘s 52-homer rookie season in 2017 – making Pete Alonso the all-time rookie HR leader for both leagues.
Alonso becomes the third player (regardless of experience) in the past 5 years to hit 50 home runs in a season – joining Giancarlo Stanton (59 in 2017) and Judge.
50 home runs for a rookie is nearly unheard of … so is 40. Pete Alonso becomes just the third rookie in history to hit 40+ home runs and the 13th rookie to hit 35+.
When Alonso wasn’t going deep, he was driving in other Mets. Alonso’s 120 RBIs in 2019 ranked 4th in the MLB and was over 40 RBIs more than the second-leading rookie.
Alonso becomes just the 5th rookie since the beginning of time to hit 30+ homers and drive in 120+. The other 4 are Albert Pujols (2001), Walt Dropo (1950), Ted Williams (1939), and Hal Trosky (1934).
Forget rookie status. Pete Alonso becomes 1 of just 19 players in MLB history to hit 50+ homers, drive in 120+, score 100+ runs, and hit 30+ doubles. Alonso is 1 of 4 players to accomplish this feat post-steroid era.
The only knock on Alonso is that he struggles to maintain a high batting average. The lack of ability to hit for average has been well documented since Alonso was a prospect in the Mets’ system.
Scouts appeared to hit the nail on the head when they tabbed Alonso as an average contact hitter with elite raw power – earning an 80 grade in this category.
Pete Alonso’s 2020 Outlook
So what’s next for Polar Bear Pete? Another 50 homer season or the dreaded sophomore slump? Let’s see which scenario history suggests is more likely.
This is a graph of the 5 players to have 30/120 rookie seasons (as mentioned above). On the left is their rookie home run totals. On the right is the number of times they went yard in their second season.
Pujols dipped slightly. Williams dipped more. Trosky even more. Dropo had an awful sophomore campaign.
What about some more recent players? Cody Bellinger won Rookie of the Year in 2017 with a 39/97 season. He followed it up with 25/76 the following year.
Mike Trout saw declines in batting average, home runs, steals, and runs scored in his sophomore season.
Mookie Betts defied the trend and improved from 18/77 in his first full year to 31/113 in year 2.
Here’s those 5 rookies who posted 30/120 seasons again. This time I’m showing the RBI totals. Just like home runs, Pujols dipped slightly and the bottom fell out for Dropo.
Notice how none of the previous 4 players to match Alonso’s rookie production were able to maintain their home run or RBI numbers in their second year.
A 15-20% decline in both homers and RBIs seems to be the norm following an outstanding rookie year. With a shortened 2020 MLB season imminent, we need to scale the numbers to get a true indication of what to expect from Alonso.
I’ll split the difference and predict a 17.5% decline in production from the Polar Bear. Over a full season, this would equate to a 44/99 season. Given that 2020 will be about one-third the length of a normal MLB season, we can expect about 15 home runs and 33 RBIs from Alonso over 50-60 games this year.
To put this in perspective, the MLB leader for home runs in 2020 will have around 20 dingers while the RBI leader will be hard pressed to reach 50.
Rob Manfred just needs to say the word and the MLB is back. See you on top!