For the month of April the Binghamton Baseball Boosters selected first baseman Peter Alonso as the Player of the Month for the Rumble Ponies; in May the boosters selected infielder Jeff McNeil as the Player of the Month. On June 14th, both Alonso and McNeil were called up to the Triple-A farm club of the Mets, the Las Vegas 51s. This continues the pattern of the boosters knowing how to judge talent, as previous winners of the Player of the Month Award during the past two years have included many players who have gone on to the big leagues, including Chris Flexen, Tomas Nido, Corey Oswalt, and Dominic Smith.
McNeil, a 12th-round pick of the Mets in the 2013 amateur draft from California State University, saw limited playing time due to injuries in 2016 and 2017.
Alonso and McNeil were the backbone of the offense for the Rumble Ponies through their stay in the Parlor City. Alonso hit 15 home runs and knocked in 52 runs while hitting .314 for the Ponies. The 26-year-old McNeil hit for a higher average than Alonso (.327), while also supplying power, as he hit 14 homers and knocked in 43 runs. McNeil has an uncanny ability to stay back on the ball, “trusting his hands” with every swing he takes, which helps account for his outstanding walk to strikeout ratio. The lefty hitting McNeil walked 22 times while only striking out 23 times in 214 at-bats. McNeil was helped with Alonso hitting behind him, as he saw a large number of fastballs, as pitchers respected Alonso’s power. This was the first year McNeil hit for power, as entering 2018 McNeil had only nine homers in over 1200 at-bats.
Alonso, 23-years-old, has always hit for power and drawn a large number of walks since he was drafted on the second round out of the University of Florida in 2016; he drew 43 walks with the Ponies in 220 at-bats. One of the challenges Alonso will face as he progresses up the ladder is to stay back on breaking pitches; though he has good power to the opposite field, Alonso at times can become “pull happy” and reach for the outside pitch. At times, Alonso tended to chase pitches out of the strike zone, accounting for a fair number of his 50 strikeouts.
Alonso lunges for an outside breaking pitch to stay alive in this at-bat.
Will McNeil continue to hit for power? Will Alonso stay back on breaking pitches? Those are two of the key questions Sandy Alderson and his front office staff hope to be able to answer in the affirmative as McNeil and Alonso play at Vegas.
As for the boosters, they hope to name another player who can climb the minor league ladder when they select their Player of the Month for June.