MANCHESTER, N.H. — Peter Alonso is a 6-3, 245-pound, mustachioed blond behemoth of a slugger. And he just might be the Mets’ best shot at an in-house impact bat this season.
“I think about it every day,” Alonso, 23, said of the major leagues. “If someone in that locker room tells you they weren’t thinking about it, they’re lying to you.
“Sometimes it seems super far away. Sometimes it seems super close. You can’t think about it too much, because there’s certain things you can’t control. But when I come to the yard every day, I have a purpose, and that purpose is to eventually get there.
“I don’t know when that’s going to be. It could be tomorrow or it could be next year or it could be a couple years from now.”
Given the way he has played this year, establishing himself as one of the preeminent hitters in Double-A, it’s likely to be a lot sooner than a couple of years.
Before going 0-for-4 in Friday’s doubleheader, Alonso had a .366 average, .485 on-base percentage and .679 slugging percentage, all career-bests by significant margins, while facing his toughest competition yet.
Alonso’s 1.164 OPS was tops across the three Double-A leagues, edging, among others, 19-year-old Blue Jays wunderkind Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (1.137). He also ranked second in homers (11), third in RBIs (34) and fourth in slugging. With numbers like that, Alonso has threatened, if not outright usurped, Dominic Smith’s unofficial status as Mets first baseman of the future.
None of this is surprising to Alonso, a second-round draft pick out of the University of Florida in 2016.
“I knew I had this in me,” he said. “Other people may not have seen it. I’m not saying it to be cocky, but I’ve worked tremendously hard at honing my craft, not just as a hitter but as a whole baseball player.”
There is more to that last part than mere cliché. Alonso has become a more well-rounded player this season by improving in two areas: walking and fielding.
Last year, after recovering from a broken hand to mash for high Class A St. Lucie, Alonso had a walk rate of 7.2 percent. This year, that has more than doubled to 15.5 percent — a product, he said, of pitchers working around him and of his improved command of the strike zone.
“It’s him maturing as a hitter,” Binghamton manager Luis Rojas said. “He’s been really good about laying off and negotiating the walk rather than chasing pitches. That’s where the numbers stand. The strikeout [18.6 percent] and walk ratio are about the same.”
Alonso also has made a concerted effort to become a better first baseman. Last fall, after he got a taste of Double-A to finish the season, the Mets sent him to their instructional league, an unusual step for a player at his age and stage.
Working with Mets minor-league infield coordinator Tim Teufel, Alonso tried to escape what he described as a defensive slump.
“I can’t tell you how many ground balls he’s hit me,” Alonso said. “Last year I felt really, really uncomfortable. Mentally it was a really hard hump to get over for me. People can go through defensive slumps as well. It’s not just offensively.
“I’ve worked my absolute tail off this offseason, trying to become a better defensive player, more efficient.”
He seems to be succeeding in that endeavor. General manager Sandy Alderson, while saying this month that Alonso has “certainly put himself on the map,” specifically noted the improved glovework.
“Defensively, I’m light years from where I was last year,” Alonso said.
Said Rojas: “He takes every area of the game at the same level of concern.”
Alonso’s next test is an ongoing one: How will he respond to pitchers approaching him differently?
Rojas said he saw a glimpse of that when teams started attacking Alonso inside early this month. He got hit by three pitches May 3. Alonso briefly fell out of his approach and had an 0-for-7 run — including consecutive hitless games, a slump by his 2018 standards — before snapping back into form.
“He did a good job going back to what got him there,” Rojas said. “He knew he was getting pitched inside, so the next day he was like, ‘OK, we have to work on that inside pitch.’ ”
Whether Alonso will help the major-league Mets this year is to be determined, and there are a lot of moving parts.
Complicating a possible promotion — to the majors or Triple-A — is the organization’s first-base situation. Adrian Gonzalez and Wilmer Flores are platooning in the majors. Smith had a .291/.396/.441 slash line with Las Vegas entering Saturday.
But it’s hard to deny Alonso’s power and potential, and there is precedent for the Mets calling up an offensive-minded prospect from Double-A: Michael Conforto in 2015. Alonso’s Binghamton numbers are better than Conforto’s were in a comparable amount of games.
For now, Alonso won’t sweat it.
“It’s just one of those things where it’s just like, you know what?” he said. “I’m just going to ball out every day. Or do the best I can to.”
1B, Binghamton Rumble Ponies
Born: Dec. 7, 1994, in Tampa (age 23)
Height: 6-3 Weight: 245
Drafted: 2016 by Mets, second round
Bats R, Throws R
*Games through Thursday