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Friday, June 06, 2008

Reds draft Yonder Alonso

Today, the Reds selected Yonder Alonso with the 7th overall selection in the draft.

Alonso is a big, hulking, left-handed hitting first-baseman and may have been the best pure hitter in the draft. Doug Gray has excellent coverage of Alonso and other Reds' day-one picks on his blog, so I'm just going to refer you over there rather than do my typical media round-up this year.

My take:
Rany Jazayerli's draft study indicated that college first basemen tend to be the most reliable picks overall when taken in the first round, so it's hard to find much to complain about here. These guys tend to be pure offensive players--they have to powerhouses in order to be taken in the first round, given that they provide almost zero defensive value. As I said a few other places, if the Reds are taking a first baseman in the first round, they must be convinced that he's going to out-hit everyone else that's available.

Hopefully they're right. Everything about Alonso's offensive skills sound great: plus discipline, good power, contact ability, minimal strikeouts... not much more to be desired here. Doug Gray compared his offense to Adrian Gonzalez. If that turned out to be the case, that'd be a heck of a pickup--Gonzalez is better than a lot of folks realize due to his home park. Alonso's lack of defensive talent (meaning that he's restricted to the bottom of the defensive spectrum) means that his success will depend solely on his ability to mash a baseball. Fortunately, that's his favorite thing to do.

I haven't seen word yet on where they plan to start him (they do have to sign him first...), but I'd think Dayton would be appropriate given how advanced he reportedly is as a hitter. Then he can start next season in Sarasota, and maybe move up to Chattanooga by mid-2009 if everything goes well. That'd have him on track for a cup of coffee with the big league club in September 2010. The Reds do already have their first baseman of the future in Joey Votto, of course. But September 2010 is still a ways away. Things change. I'm not going to worry about it for at least a year, and I doubt the Reds will either. If he's ready in 2010, that's a good thing.

There's been some discussion about his reported demands for an $8-10 million signing bonus. Even if that is what's required to sign the guy, it still makes good economic sense to go for it. If he's an average major league starter, about two wins above replacement, his production would be worth $10-12 million per year if he had to be replaced by a free agent. The Reds would control him for 6 years. If he's half as good as an average starter, ~1 win above replacement, he's still worth $5-6 million per year if you have to replace his production with a free agent. Sure, he might not make it to the big leagues at all, in which case you wasted your money (again, though, look at the Jazayerli study). But he also might be awesome, at which point his value goes into the $20 million range.

Organizations like the Reds can afford to take risks with their millions when the average payout is in their favor, and that's the way things tend to be with amateur draft signings like this one. So, Chris, Walt, & Bob...get it done.