After selecting Justin Dunn and Anthony Kay in the first round of the 2016 MLB Draft, the New York Mets continued the trend of drafting college players with their second-round selection (64th overall) of first baseman, Peter Alonso out of the University of Florida.
The six-foot-three, right-handed slugging first baseman is an intriguing force at the plate; combining raw power and a shortened swing to use the whole field to his advantage at the plate. Speaking with the 22-year-old Tampa native, I immediately got the impression of a player with a terrific work regimen, a simple approach at the plate, and a willingness to strive to be great.
Following the draft, the Mets assigned Alonso to the Brooklyn Cyclones, where he began in grand fashion; carrying a seven-game hitting streak from July 9 to July 15. Unfortunately, Alonso would be relegated to the disabled list following the August 9th game against the Vermont Lake Monsters, where he suffered a broken right pinky finger while trying to avoid a tag at second base.
In all, Alonso played in 30 games with Brooklyn, slashing .321/.382/.587 (led the Cyclones in SLG), with five home runs (tied for the team lead with Brandon Brosher), 21 RBI, 11 walks, and 20 runs scored in 109 at-bats. Here at MMO/MMN, we rated Alonso as the 12th best prospect in the Mets’ organization, however, I have a feeling that after a full healthy season this year, Alonso will become more of a household name for fans, and an intriguing force at the plate to keep an eye on as he progresses throughout the system.
I had the privilege to speak with Alonso earlier this week, where we discussed the Draft night experience with his family, his time with the Cyclones, and even a good recommendation for a chicken joint in Brooklyn!
MMO – What was the moment like when you heard your name selected by the New York Mets in the 2nd round of the 2016 Draft? Were you with family and friends when you heard the news?
Pete – I was with my parents, my little brother Alex, and my girlfriend Hailey. For draft night I was home; I just wanted to get away from the craziness. We were practicing (Florida Gators) getting ready for Super Regional, I mean it was a pretty hectic week to say the least, but I just kind of wanted to get away and be with my immediate loved ones and it was definitely the most surreal experience and hearing my name called.
I just started to cry and I gave my girlfriend the biggest hug ever and gave both my mom and dad a hug. It was so anxiety filled that whole day, but then after my name was called it was just a huge sigh of relief and just a feeling, like my body was tingling, it was just an unbelievable experience to get drafted on the first day, and I’m extremely thankful I got drafted by such a great organization and I’m all in and I’m going to give the Mets everything I’ve got.
MMO – It must’ve been almost an out of body experience to hear your name called on TV and be drafted by the Mets, something you’ve worked your whole life to reach?
Pete – Yeah, it was definitely a dream come true and I couldn’t be happier. I’m just extremely happy and last year got to work real quick and this year I just look to continue off of it, and build off my last first season. So I’m just really excited for this first full year in pro ball, my first spring training, and I’m just ready to get after it.
MMO – If you had to write a scouting report on yourself, especially for fans that may not know a lot about you, how would you describe your strengths and weaknesses?
Pete – Well, definitely my biggest strength is my bat, but also to go with that, one thing I take pride in is my aggressive approach at the plate. I have a real simple but aggressive approach: if I see a ball that is remotely in my zone, or if I see a pitch that I think I can drive, I’m going to swing at it, or I’m going to take a chance that I’m going to take a good hack at it. Also, at the same token, if you’re a good pitcher then I guess you can use a hitter’s aggressiveness against them, so that’s definitely one of the big things.
For me, once I get that pitch, one of the things I’ve been working on most is capitalizing on the pitches I can drive the most because if I miss that pitch, you may end up getting one pitch an at-bat, or even one pitch per game that you can really do damage with just depending on how good the pitcher is that day, but I mean if the pitcher can really execute then that definitely helps them out with my aggressive approach.
MMO – Growing up in Tampa, Florida, who were some of your favorite players to watch, and any that you style your game after today? Do you have any good comparisons or heard of any given to you?
Pete – The ideal comp, I know it’s kind of embarrassing, but I didn’t know who he was until I got to college. I was hitting in the cage one day and Coach O’ Sullivan called me Paul Konerko, and I looked him up on YouTube and saw how great of a player he was, and for me he’s just a big right-right first baseman that can drive the ball, extremely good with the glove, and that’s kind of my best player comp. Also a guy that I like watching now is Paul Goldschmidt and I try to emulate my game after him because he’s just an unbelievable defensive first baseman, he can change the game by either one swing or just an unbelievable defensive play and he just has such a great presence on the field. I love watching Goldy.
MMO – You and your Florida teammates had tremendous success in college, how did the time there help shape and prepare you for where you are now in your career?
Pete – Well college taught me how to put the work in in the right way and realize what I need to work on. As a freshmen coming in it’s like, you need to work on your hitting, you need to work everything you can a little more specialized. I feel like going to college I was a good player throughout my life, and I was kind of more raw and toolsy but going to college definitely helped me refine some of the things in my game. Like defense is one of the biggest things ever.
I’m sure you’ve heard reports or whatever, but in high school I had a bad rap for being bad defensively, but I completely changed that. Throughout my college career, I was struggling a little bit freshmen year, but after that I decided that you know what, I’m tired of it and I’m going to make a change, and I made an extremely, extremely huge conscious effort just to never be labeled as that guy again. For me also, work on approach things like at the plate, analyze scouting reports better, just nitty gritty things just to help me be more refined and more mature as a player.
MMO – You played primarily third base in high school and then you transitioned to first base in college, is that right?
Pete – Yeah, I played third base in high school and I mean in college, my freshmen year I played a couple of games at third, and then eventually it just turned into we needed a first baseman, and I’m just a corner guy. I think I got a pretty good arm, I’ve got an arm that can be effective at third base and I know that, I know that I have a pretty good arm for a first baseman, and a lot of people told me that’s pretty rare to see. And for me, it’s just making that transition pretty easy, it’s just understanding the game from the first base position because it’s a totally different game.
The game changes for what position you play because it’s just how you perceive everything differently just from a position, because it’s a different game from the shortstop to third base, it’s a different game, it’s crazy. There’s just different little things you need to know and understand for each little description of the position. Understanding that and how it works, I mean it’s very similar to third but also you have to be better communicating with pitchers, second baseman, coverage, different double-play depths, talking to your shortstop, and talking to the catcher.
I feel like you’re a little bit more involved at first, and you’ve got to keep your head on a swivel a little bit more, but I find I adjusted fantastically and I’m just happy that I’ve accomplished so much defensively and I’m only going to get better, because that’s one of the things that I like to stress the most because one thing I learned at the University of Florida from Coach Brad Weitzel is offense can get you in the lineup, but defense keeps you in the lineup.
MMO – To follow up with that, given the situation the Mets are in with the health of David Wright at third, if the Mets asked you to go back to third and take reps at the hot corner, would you feel comfortable transitioning back?
Pete – Of course! I’d take reps wherever they want me, if they wanted me at catch, pitch, play shortstop, center field I don’t care I just want to play.
MMO – You got off to an extremely fast start in Brooklyn, carrying a 7-game hitting streak in your first seven games there. What’s the transition like from going to college to the minor leagues in such a quick fashion as you did? Not to mention coming off the injury you sustained on May 13 when you fractured your fifth metacarpal against Vanderbilt.
Pete – Well I think that being in Brooklyn was awesome because I really enjoyed that group of guys. And I played with or against some of the guys, I played against Blake Tiberi in the Cape (Cape Cod League), I played against Jay Jabs. Desmond Lindsay, he’s a local Florida guy from Bradenton which is 45 minutes down South. I played with Thomas Szapucki in travel ball in high school. I played against Michael Paez in the (College) World Series. And Colby Woodmansee, and Brandon Brosher, we played in high school and prospect showcases and stuff like that together, so it’s not like I didn’t know some of the guys, there were a bunch of familiar faces.
MMO – So having the familiar faces has to make the transition easier.
Pete – Yeah it was a nice easy transition and it was really cool getting to learn some Spanish and stuff like that from some of the Latin guys, I mean it’s interesting, you know? And it’s just a more diverse group of people that I feel like we had an awesome group of guys, and that’s what made it an easy transition. Sometimes it’s not about where you are, it’s who you’re with, and we had a great group of guys. So for me I loved it, I had a great coaching staff, Tom Gamboa (former Cyclones MGR) was awesome, and Sean Ratliff (Hitting Coach) it was awesome working with him, and of course Edgardo Alfonzo (2017 Cyclones MGR), having him around, being a Mets great is just absolutely fantastic and being able to pick his brain, and being able to go to the field and go to work everyday was just awesome and just being around them.
MMO – And when you were playing with Brooklyn did you get the chance to explore NYC much? What are your initial thoughts on the city?
Pete – It’s definitely different but I loved it. On an off day, me and my girlfriend we went to the 9/11 Museum and it was fantastic, absolutely fantastic, that was definitely one of my favorite museums for sure. We also did the Circle Line tour, took the boat around the island of Manhattan which was pretty cool. We got to see different sights and stuff. We went to the Statue of Liberty, we went to Times Square and that was a madhouse (laughs). But my favorite part about New York City is the food, I am such a food guy it’s unbelievable.
MMO – What’s your go-to meal?
Pete – I don’t have one, everything is good.
MMO – No favorite pre-game meal then?
Pete – No, I just like anything that’s tasty, like for me if it’s chicken, steak, pork I don’t care, I am not picky whatsoever. If you make something that’s good I’ll eat it.
MMO – Well you’re in a great city for that man, you have such a diversity of cuisine and everything around, you’ll love it.
Pete – Yeah and it doesn’t matter where you go either, like every deli and every sandwich shop is just as good as the other, it’s fantastic, love it! But my favorite place is Pies and Thighs, it’s a little out of the way from the team hotel (in Brooklyn) kind of in that hipster area right by the bridge, it’s probably about five minutes away from DUMBO, but Pies and Thighs is amazing. It’s the best chicken biscuit you’ll ever have in your life, and I’m from the south so…”
MMO – Your numbers with RISP w/ Brooklyn were insane: you posted a 1.341 OPS w/ 16 RBI in those situations. How do you stay so locked in during those moments, and what’s your approach at the plate with runners on?
Pete – For me, I just love getting guys in, I mean that’s what the Mets drafted me to do. For me, I think the whole point of having a four-hole hitter, you could hit zero home runs but if you have 100 plus RBIs then you’re a run producer, it doesn’t matter.
I’m sure that’s not going to happen, but for me it’s just, ‘I’ve got to get my guys in’. And that’s just what I take pride in and you have to make it personal with the pitcher because he’s got a job too, he’s getting paid to get outs and I’m trying to get paid to get guys in, so it’s just a battle of wills. It’s just mental toughness and I take pride in getting my guys in and coming up clutch in the moment, and that’s what every kid dreams of doing, I’m just lucky enough to get paid for doing that.
MMO – What do you do in the offseason to prepare for the upcoming season? For fans that are curious how players train, can you take me into a normal day or routine for yourself?
Pete – Well for me I wake up and drop my girlfriend off at work and then after that I go lift, throw, hit, and after that eat lunch. Then do some chores around the apartment and do whatever I need to do and pick my girlfriend up from work. And it’s kind of like an 8-5 job because I get my work done, get my lift in, hit for an hour, got to throw, and then some days it may not be hitting it may be taking 100 plus groundballs, doing some base running or conditioning, it just varies from day to day. But the main thing I’ve been working on is trying to transform my body, and I want to come back as big and strong and fast as I possibly can.
Just come back in the best possible shape I can, and I want to transform my body into I guess a big league body, and I just want to be able to make an immediate impact, like the first day of Spring Training I want people to think, wow, Pete worked out on the offseason and he’s ready to get after it. That’s what I want people to think because for me, I pride myself on working hard. I just want people to understand how hard I work and just let them know that no matter what I’m always going to bust my butt and trying to make something happen. And if it doesn’t that’s fine, at least I can go to bed at night knowing I put my all in it. For me, I just work hard day in and day out whether it’s in conditioning, lifting, hitting, throwing, fielding; I just take pride in everything I do and how I play the game. I know I got a little bit left, but the itch is real right now and I can’t wait to get back out there.
MMO – Well I can speak for most Mets fans that we’re really excited for you and see how you do, we’re rooting for you and we’ll be watching, thanks again for taking the time to talk today Pete.
Pete – Thank you, I appreciate you reaching out and hopefully you’ll ask for another one down the road.
Follow Pete on Twitter: @PeterAlonso20