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Indians have found their (new) first baseman, sign Yonder Alonso

Just hours after former Cleveland Indians first baseman Carlos Santana was formerly welcomed to the Philadelphia Phillies after he signed a three-year, $60 million deal with his new club, the Indians seemed to have found their new first baseman. According to USA TODAY’s Bob Nightengale, the Indians have signed left-handed first baseman Yonder Alonso. It’s a two-year, $16 million deal with an $8 million vesting option for the third year, per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal.

Named an All-Star in 2017, the 30-year old, who turns 31 in April, had quite a power surge last season. He hit 28 home runs while knocking in 67 RBIs in 142 games with both the Oakland Athletics (100 games) and Seattle Mariners (42). Although 28 home runs may not seem like that much, Alonso had just 39 home runs and never reached the double-digit in a single season during his first seven years in the league prior to 2017. Prior to last season, he had just a .387 career slugging percentage, the lowest number for any active first baseman with at least 500 career plate appearances.

Much like a lot of players throughout the MLB, his power surge was a surprise to some. While he hit 28 home runs, Alonso also had a .266/.365/.501 (.866 OPS) split while totaling 22 doubles and 118 strikeouts in 451 at-bats. Although he hit quite well at the plate, he did much better in the first half of last season compared to the second half. He had 20 home runs prior to the All-Star break and just 16 extra-base hits in the second half. Even if his power decreased as the season went on, his .365 on-base percentage can’t go unnoticed.

The increased amount of home runs he hit seems to be due to the fact that he changed his swing as a member of the elevation revelation, as WFNY’s own Mike Hattery pointed out that the friendly right field fence in Cleveland may be Alonso’s best friend for the foreseeable future.

A left-hander, he hits quite differently at the plate against righties than he does lefties, especially in 2017.

His 2017 splits:

  • vs. right-handers: 379 at-bats, .282/.383/.517 (.900 OPS) split, 23 home runs, 57 RBIs, 20 doubles, 98 strikeouts
  • vs. left-handers: 72 at-bats, .181/.263/.417 (.679 OPS) split, five home runs, 10 RBIs, two doubles, 20 strikeouts

Career splits:

  • vs. right-handers: 2,024 at-bats, .277/.349/.422 (.771 OPS) split, 56 home runs, 239 RBIs, 121 doubles, 343 strikeouts
  • vs. left-handers: 530 at-bats, .234/.303/.349 (.652 OPS) split, 11 home runs, 67 RBIs, 28 doubles, 112 strikeouts

A very small sample size, but Alonso has played at Progressive Field 10 times. Let’s take a look at his batting stats will playing at the home of the Indians:

  • 37 at-bats, .270/.325/.405 (.730 OPS) split, one home run, one RBI, two doubles, seven strikeouts

A fan-favorite, Santana will be missed. Whether it was on or off the field, in the batter’s box or at first base, he seemed to be loved by many Indians fans and came very close to bringing home his first Gold Glove this past season. Alonso found his bat during his All-Star campaign in 2017, but he can’t be compared to Santana, especially in the field.

For what it’s worth, Indians fans may learn to love Alonso, too. As Los Angeles Angels first baseman Albert Pujols told Nightengale, the newest Indian is a guy that everyone in the MLB roots for.

“This is one of the greatest guys you’ll meet in your life,” said Pujols. “He’s a guy that everyone in this game roots for. We all know what he had to overcome, the sacrifices his family made and the person he became.

“Look what he’s doing now.”

With that said, now that Santana is gone, it would be best for Indians fans to not compare everything Alonso does (or doesn’t do) to a guy that Cleveland learned to love over the years who is now in Philly.