Athletics

Alonso fired up to get A's career started, put on white cleats

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Alonso fired up to get A's career started, put on white cleats

Yonder Alonso brings some sharp defensive skills to the A’s, and no shortage of enthusiasm about his new team too.

That much was apparent as Alonso talked with reporters on a media conference call following Wednesday’s five-player trade that sent him from San Diego to Oakland. By then Alonso had talked with Padres general manager A.J. Preller, A’s manager Bob Melvin and an old college teammate -- current A’s third baseman Danny Valencia.

After Preller broke the news of the trade to him, Alonso said that “all I could think about was going to the Bay Area and playing in the Coliseum with the white unis and white cleats. We played them last year and I was impressed with the players they have. They’re a bunch of players that just grind, and that’s what kind of player I am.”

[RELATED: Winter Meetings deals likely as A's add Alonso, Rzepczynski]

Alonso’s strength undoubtedly is his slick glove, as his offensive numbers have not matched the hype that came with the Cincinnati Reds making him the No. 7 overall pick way back in the 2008 draft. He’s a .273 career hitter with an impressive career on-base percentage of .340, but he’s never hit more than nine homers in the majors or driven in more than 62 runs.

However, the A’s are high on the overall package he brings, offensively and defensively, and Alonso says his swing began regaining its form toward the end of this past season, after he was dealing with the effects of right wrist surgery late in 2014. He also missed the final few weeks of this season with a stress reaction in his back, but says he is healthy now.

One of the first people Alonso talked to after hearing about the trade was Valencia, a teammate when both anchored the middle of the lineup for the University of Miami. Alonso played first base and Valencia handled third. They also played travel ball together in high school.

“I talked to him earlier today, and he had nothing but great things to say about the team,” said Alonso, who turns 29 in April. “I just wish it was February so I could pack my bags and get ready for spring training.”

The A’s have shown interest in trading either Valencia or second baseman Brett Lawrie, but the way the roster is coming together, it’s easier to envision Lawrie being the one dealt. The A’s are looking to improve the clubhouse chemistry issues that were a factor last season. And though Valencia was viewed by some as perhaps being part of the problem in that area (the blame extends beyond one player), there’s no debate about how much Valencia’s bat helped the A’s toward the end of last season. And certainly it can’t hurt, from a chemistry standpoint, to bring in a player that Valencia has close ties with.

[RELATED: What they're saying: Alonso goes to Oakland, Pomeranz to San Diego]

As for Alonso, he believes his offensive approach meshes perfectly with the A’s.

“It fits into what I do,” he said. “I’m a consistent hitter. I’m a tough out, I also want to see pitches. I don’t want to strike out. I think that’s the worst thing you can do as a hitter. Just be a tough out, put the ball in play, hit it to the gaps.”

A's top prospect ranking: Why Nick Allen comes in at No. 10 overall

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A's top prospect ranking: Why Nick Allen comes in at No. 10 overall

Editor's note: Over the next two weeks, we will examine the top 10 prospects in the A's organization. For each player, we will provide a scouting report and a realistic timetable for reaching the major leagues, as well as what he needs to do to stay there.

No. 10 - Nick Allen, SS/2B

The A's selected Allen out of high school in the third round of the 2017 MLB Draft and he is beginning to develop into the shortstop they hoped he would be. At just 5-foot-9, the 21-year-old is far from imposing physically, but he is a defensive wizard.

Allen has tremendous range and a cannon for an arm, with MLB Pipeline assigning him a 65 fielding rating on the 20-80 scale and an arm grade of 60. There has never been any question about his defensive ability, which is already MLB quality. Now he's beginning to show improvement at the plate as well.

Allen struggled in 2018 at Class-A Beloit, slashing just .239/.301/.302 in 121 games. But this past season at High-A Stockton, that slash line shot up to .292/.363/.434, with improved power numbers across the board.

Allen also has above-average speed, with a 60 rating from MLB Pipeline. He stole 37 bases in 193 games over the past two seasons.

Allen can play shortstop and second base, both potential positions of need for the A's in the near future. Marcus Semien is set to become a free agent after the 2020 season and Jurickson Profar is far from a sure thing to return. Youngsters Jorge Mateo, Franklin Barreto, and Sheldon Neuse could also be options at the middle infield positions, but Allen has a great chance to earn a spot down the road.

Realistically, Allen doesn't figure to join the A's until at least 2021, with 2022 seeming more realistic. He just turned 21 earlier this month and has yet to play a single game above High-A.

Allen will likely start the 2020 season at Double-A Midland, with an opportunity to move up to Triple-A Las Vegas, based on his performance. If he continues to progress offensively, he could certainly earn a major league call-up at some point in 2021.

[RELATED: Why A's should move on from Grossman]

Allen has already added some strength, which has been reflected in his increased productivity at the plate. He will need to continue his work in the weight room, without losing his speed, which should be his biggest weapon offensively.

While Allen will never be a power-hitter, he can use his speed to wreak havoc on the basepaths. If he maintains his magical defensive prowess, he has an opportunity to develop into a solid major leaguer for Oakland.

A's closer Liam Hendriks a finalist for AL Reliever of the Year award

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USATSI

A's closer Liam Hendriks a finalist for AL Reliever of the Year award

A's closer Liam Hendriks is one of three finalists for the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year Award.

Hendriks is joined by Astros closer Roberto Osuna and Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman. The NL finalists are Josh Hader, Will Smith, and Kirby Yates.

Hendriks, 30, enjoyed a breakout season in 2019, recording a 1.80 ERA and 0.96 WHIP. The right-hander notched 124 strikeouts in 85 innings, an A's franchise record for relievers, compared to just 21 walks.

Hendriks took over closing duties from Blake Treinen in the middle of the season and finished with 25 saves, along with eight holds. His 124 punchouts led AL relief pitchers and his 1.80 ERA ranked second among AL relievers with at least 40 innings.

Osuna posted a 2.63 ERA and 0.88 WHIP, with 73 strikeouts in 65 innings. Chapman finished with a 2.21 ERA and 1.11 WHIP, striking out 85 in 57 innings.

[RELATED: Hendriks' energy a big part of A's success]

The voting will be conducted by a panel of eight all-time great relief pitchers: Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman, Dennis Eckersley, Rollie Fingers, Bruce Sutter, Lee Smith, John Franco, and Billy Wagner. Both the AL and NL awards will be presented on October 26, before Game 4 of the World Series.