MIAMI — Is he too good for the Mets?
Peter Alonso has started to tear up Triple-A Las Vegas and is the Mets’ most exciting minor league player, but that doesn’t guarantee he will receive an audition with the major league club before the season concludes.
A club source Friday said the Mets likely won’t summon the slugging first baseman in September when rosters expand, but cautioned that nothing was concrete.
At issue is a potential first-base logjam with Wilmer Flores, Jay Bruce and Dominic Smith, plus the fact Alonso would claim a spot on the 40-man roster. As it stands, Alonso doesn’t need to be placed on the roster this offseason for Rule 5 draft protection purposes.
If the Mets were to place Alonso on the roster for September, it would eliminate a spot on the 40-man that could be used to protect a player from the Rule 5 draft.
The 23-year-old Alonso has 103 RBIs combined this season for Double-A Binghamton and Las Vegas. He was the only player in the major or minor leagues with at least 100 RBIs.
Alonso, who was 1-for-3 on Friday, also has four homers in his past six games for Las Vegas and is on a 18-for-47 (.382) tear over the past 11 games. Alonso stole the highlight reel at the All-Star Futures game last month with a mammoth home run at Nationals Park.
Alonso, a second-round pick in the 2016 draft, began the season at Binghamton and received a June promotion to Las Vegas. He and infielder Jeff McNeil were the Mets’ most highly regarded position players at Las Vegas as the season progressed. McNeil was called up to the Mets two weeks ago and has a .289/.396/.467 slash line in 15 games after going 1-for-5 in Friday’s 6-2 win over the Marlins.
In recent weeks, assistant general manager John Ricco has indicated the Mets do not want to bring up Alonso simply to sit on the bench. And with the Mets seemingly committed to giving regular first-base playing time to Flores and Bruce, in particular, there could be too few at-bats available for Alonso.
Bruce has been on the disabled list since June 18 with a sore hip and is close to beginning a minor league rehab assignment, according to manager Mickey Callaway. Once Bruce returns to the Mets, he is expected to split time between first base and the outfield. Flores has been the Mets’ primary first baseman for most of the season, and Smith — once considered the Mets’ future at the position — is still trying to show he belongs in the big leagues.
Alonso’s defense has been a significant question, but club officials have seen enough improvement this season to believe he can survive at first base.
“He’s made huge strides,” said a Mets talent evaluator who recently saw Alonso at Las Vegas. “Simple things like pop-ups he has gotten a lot better at. Going for balls to his backhand side he has gotten a lot more comfortable. He is playing the game the right way. He is still going to make his errors and make his mistakes, but from what he’s learned and how he’s grown, everybody should be happy with his progress.”
The Mets’ talent evaluator indicated Alonso was pressing for a stretch in July because he believed he was on the verge of being called up. Alonso has since relaxed at the plate, and the hits have followed.
“He was pressing a bit because he thought he was going to get called up to the big leagues,” the evaluator said. “He was pressing and you could see it. He got more relaxed again and hopefully he got on track.”
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