After the 2016 season, Yonder Alonso decided to make a change.
Battling injuries through much of his eight-year career, the A’s first baseman was healthy last season, playing in 156 games, but hit just .253 with seven home runs and 56 RBIs. Far from the numbers teams like to see from their first baseman.
“I think it was after last season that I looked at myself and realized I needed to make some adjustments physically, so I went ahead and started watching a lot of video and started concentrating on picking some of my flaws,” Alonso said. “Watching a lot of video just made me sure how people were attacking me and just took it into my offseason work and just a lot of repetition.”
The work paid off as Alonso, who never hit more than nine homers in a season, has 21 home runs, 45 RBIs and a .270 batting average, so it’s easy to see why the seventh player taken in the 2008 draft is on the radar of teams looking for some punch.
“I think mentally, I just changed my ways a bit,” Alonso said. “Just trying to adjust physically and mentally with my swing and get a good approach.”
Alonso, a first-time all-star, had a tremendous start to the season, including 10 home runs in May and a .303 average with an .803 slugging percentage for the month. He led all first basemen in All-Star votes for a period of time before making the team as a reserve.
“Once you get off to a decent start, the offense kind of soars,” Athletics manager Bob Melvin said. “You stick with the adjustments you had and now they just become a part of you. He’s always had the ability to do this, it’s just coming all together for him this season.”
And with his success has brought about trade rumors few could have expected entering this season. Alonso — along with his teammate, starting pitcher Sonny Gray — have been rumored in trade discussion with the Yankees over the past few weeks.
“It is what it is,” Alonso said of trade talks. “It’s fun, it’s cool. I’m not really thinking about it too much. Just playing baseball.”
But if he ends up in New York, the newfound slugger already has a favorite restaurant in mind.
On Thursday’s day off, Alonso took a few teammates to Quality Meats, a steakhouse in New York City, and had his go-to order, a bone-in filet.
Miami, Alonso’s hometown, has one of its own Quality Meats based on the New York location.
But that doesn’t mean he’s thought of himself donning pinstripes during his short-term stay for a three-game weekend series with the Mets.
“I’m just enjoying the city. I really like this city,” Alonso said. “I’m from Miami, so I’ve always been in kind of bigger cities but it’s been fun.”
Alonso, who re-signed for $2.65 million in the offseason, avoiding arbitration, has certainly been worth the investment for Oakland.
And the new swing bringing early success has been the key for Alonso throughout triumphs and struggles.
“Just a lot of confidence,” he said. “I’ve said it before, if I’m 0-for-20, I can’t wait until my 21st at-bat because I feel like with one swing I can do all the things I want.”
In his previous seven seasons, a slump would demoralize Alonso and lead to further struggles.
“I think in the past I have and it’s kind of affected me a bit but now I don’t see it like that,” he said. “I see the positive sides in everything and I understand that during the season, you go through some slumps, you go through some good ones. So for me, I always feel like I’m in a good one, no matter what.”