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Road to Rookie of the Year, Part III: The Minor Leagues

An in-depth look at Pete Alonso’s rise to being selected 2019 National League Rookie of the Year.

Pete Alonso
Steve Sypa

The Brooklyn Cyclones season began with a twenty-inning loss to the Staten Island Yankees. The next day, they lost in extra innings once again, but to add insult to injury, they were no-hit by right-handers Drew Finley and Josh Roeder, the latter of whom struck out ten batters in four innings of relief. The Cyclones would end up going 9-13 before Pete Alonso finally suited up for them. As an advanced college hitter coming from an elite NCAA division where he regularly faced competition equal to or better than what he saw in the NY-Penn League, Peter Alonso often looked like a man among boys. He hit .289/.372/.553 in his first ten games and .321/.382/.587 in his first month. Unfortunately, the injury bug would hit yet again, and Alonso would only play 30 games with the Cyclones. On August 9th, he broke his pinky sliding into second base avoiding being tagged, forcing him to not only miss the NYPL All-Star Game that he had been selected to participate in, but the rest of the 2016 season. That winter, Amazin’ Avenue ranked him 16 on our 2016 Top 25 Mets Prospects list. Like many other scouts and evaluators at the time, we were impressed by the raw power he had, but had concerns about his swing mechanics and defense.

Fully healed, he was promoted to the St. Lucie Mets for the start of the 2017 season, but was sent back to the disabled list on April 11th- just six games into the season- when he was hit in the hand by a pitch by Bradenton Marauders starter Dario Agrazal. Alonso missed just over a month of baseball due to the broken hand, and when he finally got back on the field, he spent the next few weeks working off the baseball rust. By the time the Florida State League All-Star Game break arrived in mid-June, the slugger was hitting a paltry .167/.217/.269 line with two homers in 21 games. During the break, Alonso worked with manager Chad Kreuter and hitting coach Luis Natera to develop a new approach at the plate, both mentally and physically.

Mentally, they taught him to compartmentalize his struggles, something that, with his history of success, he wasn’t used to. “I had to compartmentalize to get my mind off the struggles. I could[n’t] stand people maybe thinking, ‘Dammit, Pete’s up.’ When things are going that bad, people are going to get frustrated, and it can be tough to get out there. I’ve never been known to dip below .200, like ever. I wanted to hit the panic button, but I’m proud of myself for getting out.” Physically, they had him lower his hands. “I started with my hands high, but they would go back down and it was almost like a hitch. I wanted to be more efficient because in the Florida State League you got guys who can throw hard. Why not just start my hands down and that helped me be more compact and more efficient?”

Alonso embraced the help that his coaches gave him, maintaining a positive outlook. “I’ve got as much power as anybody. I know who I am. I’m a big, strong guy. I can launch them with the best of them…When I get my swing consistent like he can, the power will come. That’s not a worry with me.” They were prophetic words, as the slugger went on an absolute tear when the Florida State League’s second half began. In 61 games, he hit .326/.407/.600 with 14 home runs. He got a late-season promotion to the Binghamton Rumble Ponies at the end of August and was just as dominant there, hitting .324/.342/.649 with a pair of homers in 9 games. That winter, Amazin’ Avenue ranked him 9 on our 2017 Top 25 Mets Prospects list.

He started the 2018 season with Binghamton and picked up where he left off in September, running roughshod over the Eastern League. Along with teammate Jeff McNeil, who was finally healthy after years of setbacks and ready to show off his improved in-game power, the duo formed one of the most potent 1-2 punches in the league. In 65 games, Alonso hit .314/.440/.573 with 15 home. In mid-June, he was promoted to the Las Vegas 51s, and while it took him a few weeks to get acclimated to the level, Alonso hit a well-above average .260/.355/.585 with 21 home runs in 67 games.

No Alonso home run would be more pivotal than the one he hit on Monday, September 3rd, the last day of the season. Down 3-2 going into the bottom of the ninth inning, shortstop Luis Guillorme clubbed a triple that energized and electrified the crowd of 5,353- though many had left by the time Guillorme made it to third standing. Pete Alonso strode to the plate and a tangible sense of excitement swept over the crowd that had been dormant for most of the game. Tyler Beede got his signs and threw a pitch that most certainly must’ve been a mistake; a fat pitch almost literally right down the middle of the plate. Alonso took a mighty hack and deposited the offering beyond the left field wall, walking off the game for Las Vegas and ending the Las Vegas 51s franchise in storybook fashion, as it would not only be the 51s’ last game as the Mets’ Triple-A affiliate, but their last game period, as the new Las Vegas team would have a completely new identity.

Alonso entered the 2019 season as the Mets’ top prospect, but as it turns out, he would not retain his rookie eligibility for very long.