Going into this season the New York Yankees knew they had a fringe prospect in Zoilo Almonte, someone who might be able to contribute but not anyone who could be a legitimate option as a starter for many years in one of the corner outfield spots.
Almonte, 24, always had an intriguing power tool but he also had an issue of making consistent contact and a high strikeout rate. Last season, for example, Almonte struck out 103 times in 451 at-bats while walking only 25 times. That seems to have changed so far this season as Almonte has shown good patience at the plate and is still spraying line drives.
If you look at the stats you will see Almonte’s .267/.332/.435 line isn’t far off from Robinson Cano’s .278/.331/.425 minor league slash line. No, I’m not saying the Yankees have another Robinson Cano in their system but Almonte is slowly showing that he can be a legitimate option in a corner outfield spot and produce a .260-.280, 20-25 home run season in the Major Leagues. He just reminds me of Cano at a similar point in their careers.
Almonte was just named the International League Offensive Player of the Week and has been off to a torrid start hitting .294/.397/.451 with three home runs, 17 RBIs, seven doubles and only 21 strikeouts and 18 walks. His 18 walks are just seven behind last year’s total of 25. Almonte has improved his walk rate from 5.6 percent last season to 14.9 percent. He looks like a completely different player than he was last year at Double-A Trenton.
This was exactly the step the Yankees were hoping he would make, becoming more selective at the plate while not sacrificing his offense. The Yankees were hoping Melky Mesa would make that adjustment but so far Mesa hasn’t shown the ability to make consistent contact.
The Yankees might have a potential contributor in Almonte which could give the Yankees some financial flexibility moving forward as the Yankees try to get under the $189 million luxury tax threshold. It will be interesting to see if Almonte will get a shot or if Brian Cashman will try to find another veteran bat reclamation project. The Yankees might be wise to give Almonte a shot this season to see what he can offer. He can’t be worse than Ben Francisco.