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Monday Rockpile: Are Yonder Alonso or Kila Ka'aihue worth the Rockies pursuits?

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A lot of the talk during this offseason has been what to do with the Colorado Rockies' catching situation and the decline of Todd Helton at the plate. The solution that everyone's settled on is to get a catcher/1B combo in the form of Victor Martinez or Mike Napoli (assuming he's available), and everything would be peachy from there. Well, another major criticism of the Rockies in general in 2010 was far too many strikeouts. Sure, the Rockies weren't the Diamondbacks, who set the Major League record for team strikeouts in a season, the Rockies punched out in 23.0% of their PA.

Now, strikeouts aren't necessarily indicative of a lack of batting acumen, as the Rockies graded out at about league-average as far as batting goes (100 wRC+). Strikeouts are, however, the ultimate situational killer, and for a team that struggled situationally (well, that was the perception anyhow, as it turns out the Rockies hit better than the rest of the league in every situational split except for man-on-2nd-only and bases jacked) Napoli would continue to present further frustration. No Rockie with 90 or more PA in 2010 struck out as much as Mike Napoli's CAREER mark of 29.9% (Miguel Olivo came close at 29.7%).

Napoli is a very good batter, as his worst season in the majors showed a 110 wRC+ (suggesting that he was 10% better than the average batter), but my concern with Napoli is that he'd be a short term acquisition, with (I believe) 2 years remaining before free agency.

None of this is really indicting a Mike Napoli trade as a particularly bad idea, but what if the Rockies wanted to look longer term than that?

Two names that have been brought up recently have been Yonder Alonso of the Reds and Kila Ka'aihue of the Royals. Alonso is a 1B who has been blocked by this Joey Votto fellow and Billy Butler has forced Kila to take the part-time DH role. Just that sentence right there makes Kila slightly less plausible for Colorado, as he WILL get playing time in Kansas City, just maybe not at 1B. Which may be a decent thing, given that he's probably more suited to being a DH anyhow, from how his fielding is rated.

Here are some other reasons why Kila may not be a good fit for Colorado. He is left handed, for starters. Seriously though, is there a 1B in baseball that ISN'T left handed who is also not named Pujols? Like, one who's any good? Gah this is such a frustrating search. Anyhow, Kila. Left handed, doesn't really help the platoon situation. Stinks at fielding - maybe. SSS UZR says he has good range. Good for him. Batting-wise, he's committed hate crimes on the PCL, to the tune of an well rounded .945 OPS over 3 different seasons in AAA and over 1100PA. Pretty good, ya? Ehhh I'm not so sure. For starters, Kila DID get 200PA in the majors in 2010, and while SSS still reigns pretty supreme, he only managed a .217/.307/.394 line (.306 wOBA, 88 wRC+). While there are always growing pains in transitioning to MLB from AAA, Kila will be 27 on opening day.

Click past the jump for more.

Off Topic

To help this analysis, I decided to whip out the handy dandy Major League Equivalence calculator, thanks to the fine gentleman(men? ladies? folks?) who ran minorleaguesplits.com for such a long time. What this calculator does is take stats from the minors (and you can even pick the league and team!) and translates in them into neutral or park-adjusted MLB stats. For fun, I ran Brad Eldred's 2010 in AAA, and it spits out a Major League Equivalent line of .227/.278/.457 (amusingly enough, this is disturbingly close to Clint Barmes' 2009 line...weird). Sounds about right, given Eldred's .204/.259/.419 career line (and then add in some Coors magic). For the record, I don't HATE the idea of Eldred being a platoon partner for Helton, but let's stay on track here.

Getting down to brass tacks, Kila's impressive AAA numbers aren't nearly as impressive in the majors, even in Coors Field. The calculator suggests a line of .246/.362/.430 in the majors, which isn't AWFUL (in fact, that .362 OBP would have outmatched everyone on the team excepting Troy Tulowtizki, Carlos Gonzalez, Jason Giambi, and Todd Helton. Weird.), but when you get all slap happy looking at large AAA numbers and suddenly it translates into a sub-.800 OPS. a lot of that prospect-y luster is gone. How do you write "Joe Koshansky" in Hawaiian?

Let's move on because I'm sick of writing this and you're sick of reading it.

Yonder Alonso, blocked by Joey Votto, plays in AAA and is the Reds 2008 first round pick. He's 23, so there's a lot of projectable growth for this young man, and he's also left han- seriously? Another one? Yes, Yonder Alonso is left handed, so once again, the platoon is wrecked and the world is ending. Can we just take a young 1B prospect and trade in his ability to wink one eye at a time in exchange for a switch in batting handedness or something like that? What I'd give...

Anyhow, Alonso looks to be a decent contact hitter with power that we really haven't seen emerge yet and Bill James seems to think he can post a 110 wRC+ in 2011 given 130 games to prove himself. I'm not so sold, but then again, I'm a stats guy, and my magic calculator of snarkiness and exhaustion see Alonso's AAA numbers as being worth a .261/.311/.403 line in Colorado, a line which translates to "not very good". Difference is with Alonso, there's room to grow, and he's 1st round talent. There's an upside for you.

The way I see it with Yonder Alonso is that it behooves the Reds to move him. If they move him, they lose that rich Cuban batting goodness which could possibly be moved to RF or 3B or something, given that Joey Votto is phenomenal. If they keep Alonso, he's going to stagnate in AAA and lose what edge he had. Cincy can probably get a halfway decent return for Alonso. Not a phenomenal one, given that Joey Votto's incoming MVP kind of destroys any leverage the Reds may have had, but I'm sure a MLB player and some sort of prospect could get the job done. Cincy likes Venezuelan righties with control problems and Cole Garner, right?

So bottom line, I'm not terribly thrilled with the idea of either Kila or Alonso anymore, despite their interesting names. If we were to actually make a move for either 1B, gun to my head, I'd probably take Alonso given his age and projectability and all those other nifty words that make us feel better about prospects we're not 100% comfortable with. (seriously though, gun to my head? what kind of terrorist/bank robber actually cares about which blocked 1B prospects fit in Colorado? worst crime syndicate ever.)

Do you ever have this grand idea for something to write or present and then when you write the entire thing you realize that you just shot down all of your own ideas and brought yourself back to square 1? Great.