Unlike most minor league cities, Brooklyn presents its own set of unique challenges. With raucous fans and a ballpark located 30 miles from Citi Field, the spotlight shines brightly on every prospect in their professional season. But few handled the unique surroundings better than Mets’ second pick Peter Alonso, who led the Cyclones in five offensive categories and made the New York-Penn League All-Star team prior to a season-ending finger injury in mid-August.
Alonso, who grew up in Tampa, Florida, lived in close proximity to the Yankees’ spring training complex at Steinbrenner Field and had deep admiration for local products, such as fellow first basemen Tino Martinez and Dave Magadan, who had prominent big league careers.
“I lived about ten minutes away from Steinbrenner Field, which is the Yankees spring training complex. I have always loved the game of baseball and the ability to get paid to do something I love. I watched Tino Martinez during the 2001 World Series and he went to Jefferson High School. With Tampa being such a baseball-rich community, you can’t help but root for the Tampa guys,” Alonso said.
Playing for Dennis Braun at Plant High School, Alonso first gained prominence as a legitimate power threat. In 2013, Alonso was a recipient of the Wade Boggs Award, which recognizes athletic achievement and community service in Hillsborough County. Perhaps one of the most vital attributes Alonso picked up at Plant was the ability to understand the game’s inner fundamentals and round into a complete player.
“Braun is not afraid to speak his mind,” Alonso said. “He helped me develop a strong work ethic and the mental approach to the game. I was just able to pick up on the little things and the minuscule details that affect the outcome of a game.”
Following high school, Alonso went undrafted despite strong accolades. He eventually chose to attend the University of Florida and proved his value in the SEC, batting to a .301/.398/.503 slash line in 2015, but a series of injuries, including a broken nose which forced him out of action. Alonso eventually donned an NFL style facemask on his batting helmet and had to adapt to the new equipment.
“I did not think of the facemask as a roadblock. It was a chance to overcome adversity and be an example. There are a lot of kids who have to overcome adversity in order to play the game they love. I wanted to play and you got to learn how to cope. The first pitcher I had to face with the mask was Carson Fulmer,” Alonso notes.
With a clean bill of heath, Alonso did his most important damage in the College World Series with a .320 average, three home runs, and seven runs batted in across two seasons. Florida’s berths in the College World Series became a collective effort with the likes of Harrison Bader, A.J. Puk, and Richie Martin earning early round draft selections and constructing a formidable reputation for the school on the baseball diamond.
“Richie is just a gamer. The way he’s progressed in his career and transformed himself defensively and became a different player after playing in the Cape is startling. Bader worked through his adversity and now you see the fruits of his labor in pro ball and I played with A.J. for three years and we were roommates. He’s one of my good friends”.
Taken in the second round by the Mets last June, Alonso immediately became the most dominant Cyclones’ player since Michael Conforto. In 109 at-bats, Alonso batted .321 with five home runs, 21 RBI, and 12 doubles. He also flashed a flawless glove, turning 15 double plays and went errorless in 30 games played. Alonso’s value was most evident when he carried a struggling Cyclones’ offense with a .433 average with runners in scoring position.
“It’s all about mentally preparing myself. This year I took it upon myself to become the best player I could possibly be and help my team win,” Alonso said. “I took a lot of ground balls. Every day before BP I am taking extra hacks to prepare myself to be the best and be a leader of a team.”
Noted for his power to all fields, Alonso is a player that produces in other facets of the game. Although he does not have a quick first step in the field, he can make all routine plays and displays better range than initially expected. At the plate, Alonso shows good reaction and plate discipline and has the strength necessary to pull outside pitches even if he is slightly off with his timing.
While Dominic Smith leads the pack among top first base prospect in the Mets’ system, Alonso displays more power than his counterpart and continues improving all facets of his game with plus makeup, a characteristic that should help him as he prepares to recover from a broken pinkie that prematurely ended his season in Brooklyn.
“With Alonso, he basically arrived around the same time as Conforto did two years ago,” Cyclones manager Tom Gamboa said. “I think the difference with Alonso is that he made such an impact on the team so quickly and also on the teams he’s played against with his home runs and the amount of RBIs he has and his fabulous defense. It is unfortunate he got hurt and hopefully, he can participate in the offseason instructional league program.