Originally written on Baseball Professor  |  Last updated 2/4/13

Once considered one of the best up-and-coming players in the game, Yonder Alonso has fallen off the map. Ranked by Baseball America as the top prospect in the Padres organization last year, Alonso slashed a decent .273/.348/.393 in his first full season in the majors. However, due to his lack of power (he only hit nine home runs last year) and the vast depth of the first base position, Alonso only ranked as the 39th-best first baseman according to ESPN’s Player Rater. Although the 39th ranked first baseman isn’t even worth starting in a deep NL-only league, the fact that Alonso is ranked so low makes him a great sleeper candidate for 2013. While Alonso hit “only” .273 last year, he should have hit much higher. His .318 BABIP might seem a little high — if not normal —  but it’s actually quite low for the type of hitter he is. Alonso hit line drives (balls that usually fall for hits) about 23.7% of the time last year, well above the league average of 20.9%. Plus, Alonso’s 2.8% infield fly rate (IFFB%, i.e. fly balls considered automatic outs) seems microscopic compared to the league average of 10.0%. Alonso’s expected stats, thanks to slash12 over at Beyond the Boxscore, confirm this hypothesis. His xAVG of .295 and xBABIP of .345 are much higher than the .273 and .318 marks he actually put up. To hammer this point in, there were seven other players (minimum 300 PA) with a LD% of at least 23.0% and an IFFB% under 3.0% — a batting mold similar to Alonso’s. Those players averaged a .294 average and a .360 BABIP. Alonso is definitely more of a .290 hitter than a .270 hitter, although it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he hit above .300 next year. PETCO’s new dimensions for 2013, thanks to nationalwestblog.wordpress.com. However, the real question with Alonso surrounds his power production. Alonso’s HR/FB rate last year was a measly 6.4%, much lower than the league average of 11.3%. You would think that the low HR/FB rate is a result of playing half his games in the spacious PETCO Park, but that isn’t the case. Alonso’s home/road splits don’t show much of a difference: 4.8% at home, 7.6% on the road. Alonso has never really been a big home run hitter — the most home runs he’s hit in a single season is 17 in 2011 — however, the fences were just moved in at PETCO, and that may help turn some long doubles into homers. I would put Alonso’s home run total for next year at around 15 dingers. (Note: Here’s a good read on PETCO’s new dimensions where Alonso was projected to have five more homers in 2012 had the new dimensions existed last year.) While Alonso might not be a good starting first baseman due to his lower power numbers, he can still be a valuable utility player because of his good batting average and solid all-around numbers. He did play 16 games in the outfield last season, so he becomes more valuable in a five-outfielder league if he has that eligibility, however the best way to use a player like Alonso would be to pair him with a low-batting slugger, someone like Adam Dunn or Carlos Peña. That way you still get the power numbers, and Alonso evens out your batting average so that low-average slugger doesn’t kill your team. With the league batting average dropping to .255 last year, the lowest it’s been since 1989, good .300 hitters are harder to come by in fantasy. Take advantage of this, and take a flier on Alonso in the late rounds of your draft next year. Tweet

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