Week after week, a new surprise player goes on a torrid hot streak. We had Eric Thames, Ryan Zimmerman, Aaron Judge and now Yonder Alonso.
The projection systems called for power from Thames and it was a question of how the power he displayed in Korea the last three seasons would translate to MLB and it has. Zimmerman has the pedigree, but couldn't stay healthy the last few seasons and it's not a huge surprise.
Judge clearly had the power and the key was making contact after a 44.2 percent strikeout rate last season. He has improved it, striking out 26.4 percent of the time.
Alonso has to be the biggest surprise. He was on the radar the least of this group by fantasy owners. The Oakland A's first baseman is 30 years old and never hit double digit home runs in a season before 2017. He was expected to do big things considering he was the seventh overall pick by the Reds in 2017. It never happened.
First base is a position where we need power in fantasy baseball and Alonso never showed it. He didn't even hit for a .300 average over a full season. There wasn't much to get excited about at all.
All of a sudden, Alonso is hitting home runs. He has already exceeded his career high in May. Alonso is batting .303 with 16 runs, 11 home runs, 27 RBIs and a 1.076 OPS. It has taken a lot of time for people to come around to add Alonso.
There are still a lot of skeptics. Alonso is owned in 67 percent of CBS Sports leagues. It should be higher. What has changed with Alonso?
Alonso hit 39 home runs since 2011 before this season. Alonso told Eno Sarris of FanGraphs in March that he was trying to hit more fly balls. I want to date Ashanti, but we don't get results just by wishing it for it.
I'll keep you posted on Ashanti, but Alonso is hitting the ball in the air more. Alonso has a 52 percent fly ball rate. His career average is 33.4 percent. Last season, Alonso was at 33.3 percent and 27.8 percent the year before, so there's a stark change that is working. Alonso is also hitting the ball harder. He has a 41.3 percent hard hit rate and his best was 32.3 percent last season.
The sacrifice Alonso has made is an increase in strikeouts. Alonso has a 21.2 percent strikeout rate; his career average is 14.7 percent. That's not a damaging strikeout rate and it isn't influencing his average and Alonso is walking more with a 12.4 percent walk rate.
Many are going to dismiss this as a fluke. From the surface it looks like an outlier, but Alonso clearly made a change by hitting the ball in the air a lot more and making harder contact. Alonso is on a hot streak now and will cool off and while it's a sample of six weeks, the results are there.
Alonso should be owned in all leagues. It made sense if people were slow to buy in two weeks ago. Not anymore.