Scouting Yankees Prospect #43: Zoilo Almonte

Zoilo Almonte could be an option in 2013

The New York Yankees signed outfielder Zoilo Almonte out of the Dominican Republic as one of their top International free agents in 2005. He had always flashed some great potential but lacked the overall consistency to be considered one of the top prospects. He is getting better in the consistency department lately, however, and now a member of the 40-man roster, could be an in-house option.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Zoilo Almonte
Position: Outfield
DOB: June 10, 1989
Height: 6'0"
Weight: 190
Bats: Both
Throws: Right

He hit .277 with 21 home runs and 15 stolen bases for the Trenton Thunder in 2012 after hitting a combined .276 with a career-high 26 doubles, 15 home runs, 77 RBI, and 18 stolen bases between high-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton in 2011, finally proving to be a consistent producer at the upper minor league levels.

It all began back in Spring Training, however, when he was opening some eyes with his clutch hitting and more importantly a noticeably renewed focus on the small details in his game.

"I think it went well," Almonte told PinstripePlus.com of big league camp through the help of a translator. "I was able to make some adjustments and it paid off in the games.

"I got a couple of good hits. I made adjustments to the mental game, my mental training, that was the biggest thing."

As solid a season as it was for the corner outfielder, Almonte could have had even better numbers had it not been for a hamstring injury early in the season that kept him out of action for nearly a month.

"I felt bad," he said. "I want to help the team and be able to contribute. But [getting injured] happens so you have to keep your head up.

"Sometimes an injury can be a really negative thing and other times it can be a positive thing. Sometimes it can really hurt you and it is hard to get back, and other times it allows you to step away from the game, refocus, and get stronger and dedicate yourself."

In his younger days Almonte would have struggled with such a setback but the now more mature outfielder saw a power surge upon his return, clubbing twelve of his home runs in his final 188 at-bats.

"[He] looks good," Thunder manager Tony Franklin said late in the season. "He is an aggressive player in both spots, on both sides of the ball.

"He doesn't get cheated swinging and he's going to take his hacks and it's a good thing. It's better than going up there and being very passive. So his aggressiveness is the key to his ability to hit as well as defensively."

He has shown an ability to hit consistently and hit for power in the long-season leagues and now he's inching his way closer to the big leagues, so much so that he is now one of the better near-term, in-house outfield options for the Yankees.

"Here is a guy who has elevated his game tremendously [throughout the season]," Franklin added. "That is what you like to see out of a 40-man roster guy.

"I don't think the Yankees made a mistake by putting him on the roster because he is certainly one of the more talented individuals who have carried us. By Zoilo being selected to the All-Star team, that kind of shows you exactly what the league has thought of him. He is a pretty good player."

Year

Team

AVG

AB

2B

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

SO

OBP

SLG

2012 Trenton .277 419 23 21 70 64 15 25 103 .322 .487
2011 Trenton .251 175 11 3 23 23 4 14 45 .309 .377
2011 Tampa .293 259 15 12 54 38 14 31 60 .368 .514
2010 Tampa .261 238 10 3 26 26 8 23 65 .322 .366
2010 Charleston .278 227 13 10 35 33 7 21 65 .341 .485
2009 Staten Island .274 259 20 7 39 43 15 31 58 .355 .440
2008 Gulf Coast .239 180 7 5 20 24 3 13 35 .291 .372
2007 Gulf Coast .268 190 11 3 24 25 2 9 35 .307 .395
2006 DSL Yankees .219 192 6 6 36 28 4 28 52 .320 .375


Batting and Power. Almonte's rather low walk to strikeout ratio doesn't nearly do his overall patience at the plate any justice. He is actually a very patient and selective hitter earlier in the counts, but will then jump on his pitch in an effort to drive the ball. He will never be a high on-base percentage guy as a result but he is very adept at swinging at good pitches. The switch-hitter has above average to even plus power potential from the left side of the plate and he has proven to be one of the best clutch hitters over the past two seasons, hitting .296 with runners in scoring position and a whopping .371 with runners in scoring position and with two outs in 2012 [he hit .313 with RISP and .351 with RISP and 2 outs in Tampa in 2011].

Base Running and Speed. Almonte's growing maturity has shown up in the running game too. Once prone to silly base running mistakes, he has seriously cut down on those over the years. More of an average runner overall, he is still aggressive stealing bases and that makes him a solid double-digit base stealer each year, but his risks running are more calculated than in his younger days.

Defense. Almonte is more solid than spectacular defensively. He shows solid range and average to above average arm strength. He could play centerfield in a pinch but it would not be prudent to have him out there for any prolonged period of time. He is better suited for the corner outfield spots and probably best in the shorter confines of right field in Yankee Stadium.

Projection. Almonte's major positive, his aggressiveness at the plate that helps his very good power production, is also his biggest negative. He just doesn't walk very much despite being a naturally patient hitter. He eventually could become a high walks guy if he ever made it a higher priority, however. He has that ability. He has all the makings of being a solid reserve outfielder for the Yankees -- solid defense, clutch hitting as a switch-hitter, an ability to steal a base -- but there's also some real starting potential too given his plus power from the left side, something that could be tailor made for the short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium. The one thing that could prevent him from becoming a starting option though is his propensity to take some time to adjust to a new level. A team like the Yankees may not be able to live with his tendency to start off slow before making the necessary adjustments, but if he could ever start off strong at the big league level he's the type of productive hitter who could stick there for a long while, one who gets better and better as his confidence grows.

ETA. 2013. Almonte is ready for Triple-A Scranton in 2013 but there's also a strong possibility he could get a serious look at the big league club should the need arise for an outfielder.

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