Tag Archives: Zoilo Almonte

First Impression Of Zoilo

Zoilo Curtain Call

(Syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod)

It was a nationally televised game on ESPN Wednesday night, which gave me my first look at the newest rookie call up in 2013, Zoilo Almonte.  Almonte’s made quite the splash in his first few Major League games, contributing with his bat and glove and relegating Vernon Wells to the situational bench role he deserves.  I did this exercise last month with David Adams and Austin Romine, and my optimistic predictions for both of them haven’t exactly come true since.  But with the Yankees still struggling for offense, still trying to piece together a competent and competitive lineup every day, and still looking for some cheap young talent to fill the roster next season, it makes sense to evaluate Zoilo as a solution to all 3 of those needs.  While it wasn’t a banner night for him on Wednesday (0-3, 2 K, 1 BB), there was still some good stuff that I saw in his game.

The first thing that stood out to me was Almonte’s approach at the plate.  For a guy who never had much of a reputation as a patient hitter coming up through the Minors, he really impressed me with his pitch recognition and willingness to take pitches that were just off the corner.  He also didn’t overswing – a common problem for rookies still a little geeked about being in the show – and the smoothness of his swing and lack of excessive pre-swing mechanical movement makes it easy to see why he can drive the ball when he makes solid contact.

There was also some unexpected maturity to Almonte’s approach at the plate.  In his first at-bat against Justin Grimm on Wednesday night, Almonte turned his hips and pulled his hands in on a curveball low and inside and pulled it foul down the first base line.  He got a fastball away on the next pitch and instead of trying to do too much with it with 2 strikes he just reached out and fouled it off the other way down the left field line.  The at-bat ended with a strikeout, but Almonte’s ability and willingness to hit the ball where it was pitched was a good indicator of why he’s stronger hitting from the left side.

During the 6th inning rally, Almonte came up with 2 on and 1 out against Robbie Ross, this time hitting right-handed, and he very coolly and calmly took a 5-pitch walk to load the bases.  Ross threw a couple borderline fastballs and again Almonte showed his improved patience and smart situational baseball skills by not being over-aggressive and hacking to make something happen.

Defensively, Almonte really impressed me in the handful of plays I saw him make.  His reputation from MiL scouting reports made him sound like a bit of an adventure out there but I thought he handled himself well.  He was athletic and quick moving to the ball – both over his head and in front of him – without being out of control and he was smooth and effective fielding balls off the wall and getting them back in quickly.  He made a really good throw from the warning track to almost nail Ian Kinsler at second in the top of the 8th, so there’s plenty of arm out there to get the job done.  Is he going to win a slew of Fielding Bible Awards?  No, absolutely not.  He also didn’t look like he was going to be a liability out there, and that’ll get the job done when he’s got Brett Gardner patrolling center next to him.

He always profiled as a fringe player at this level, a 4th outfielder at best, and that may very well be what Zoilo’s ultimate ceiling is.  His early SSS results are encouraging though, and he looked to me like he’s got enough tools to stick at this level.  We’ve already seen what happens with Adams when other teams start to figure out your strengths and weaknesses and try to exploit them.  Within the next few weeks we’ll see how Almonte adapts to that.

(Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Giving The Kids The Keys

Zoilo Almonte

(Syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod)

Call me crazy, but I saw something significant in the small flurry of personnel moves the Yankees made last Friday.  No, it wasn’t the end of the saddest SS platoon in history, although it did get a little dusty in here when I read that Reid Brignac was gone (not really).  It was the commitment being made to the young guys on the active roster that stood out to me.  In making that move to dump Brignac, call Alberto Gonzalez back up from Triple-A, and make Jayson Nix the everyday shortstop, the Yankees were also in effect giving the everyday starting third base job back to David Adams.  Add to that the insertion of Zoilo Almonte into the everyday lineup for Vernon Wells and it looks like the Yankees are finally ready to follow the demands of tons of fans out there and let the kids play.

In Zoilo’s case, the decision can hardly be questioned.  Wells has been an absolute ghost in the lineup since the start of May – his numbers against RHP had become comically bad – and he all but admitted he was done with his revelation of the dreaded “dominated by the pitching machine” experience.  Almonte is not and never will be the defensive outfielder Wells is, but it was going to be hard for him to be worse at the plate.  The Yankees had nothing to lose by making the move to Almonte and he’s rewarded them in spades in his first few games.  In just 14 plate appearances, Almonte has all but locked the starting LF job up for himself for at least the next month.  5 of his 7 hits have gone for extra bases, he’s driven in 4 runs, drawn 2 walks, and shown himself to be at least serviceable as a Major League outfielder.  That it took just 14 PA for Zoilo to move into a tie for 3rd on the team (with Frankie Cervelli) in positional fWAR at 0.6 shows how desperate the Yankees were for a change in the outfield.

The situation with Adams wasn’t and isn’t so simple.  Adams has been downright awful himself at the plate since his first week in the show, something that was surely a contributing factor in the decision to bring Kevin Youkilis back so quickly off the DL.  Adams got shuffled out of the playing time rotation when Youkilis did come back, and during those few weeks the Yanks even experimented with Nix at third to try to generate some offense.  Looking back on it now, perhaps Adams was feeling the pressure to continue to produce knowing that he was going to lose that job when Youkilis did return and perhaps that led to his offensive disappearance and painfully long walk-less streak.  Adams himself practically admitted as much in a post by Brian Heyman over at LoHud this yesterday morning.

Adams was once again starting at third base this past weekend, now batting 8th, and he responded with a run-scoring hit on Friday night.  On Saturday he drove in another run and finally drew his first walk of the season, 2 in fact.  He went 0-4 with 2 strikeouts yesterday Sunday, lowering his season batting average to .191, but he was not removed for a pinch hitter at any point.  Joe made the call to put him in the starting lineup and then stuck with him through the game, for better or worse.

With Youkilis out of the picture, and Nix no longer playing a left side utility role, the Yankees have the freedom to let Adams play every day again and it looks like that’s what they’re going to do.  They saw something in him when they made the decision to call him up in May, and he was put into a pretty tough position covering for 2 former All Stars and batting higher in a struggling lineup than he probably should have been.  The way they’ve handled Adams since Friday indicates they still see something in him and want to give him a real shot to prove himself as a viable Major League player.

Maybe he will and maybe he won’t.  There’s no guarantee that this apparent new chance for Adams will result in a turnaround for him offensively.  There’s also no guarantee that Zoilo stays as hot as he is to start his Major League career.  It’s eerily similar to Adams’ first week in pinstripes back in May and it all could come crashing down this week as teams start to scout him more seriously and identify his weaknesses as a hitter.  The point is that the Yankees are giving these guys the chance they deserve and easing up a bit on their preference for “proven” veteran players.  Those veterans like Brignac and Wells weren’t cutting the mustard.  Far from it.  The timing was right to make these moves and kudos to the Yankees for making them.  If nothing else, they’ll find out if these kids can be useful pieces moving forward.

(Photo courtesy of the AP)

Expectations For Zoilo In A Mixed Bag Season Of Rookies

Zoilo Almonte

The Year of The Rookie continued yesterday when the Yankees recalled Adam Warren to replace Teix on the active roster and reportedly prepared to call up Zoilo Almonte as the latest attempted shake up/boost/slight upgrade/marginal improvement/whatever to the scuffling lineup.  While a corresponding roster move to make room for Zoilo hasn’t been announced yet – smart money would be on Chris Bootcheck – chances are high that we’ll see him in the lineup either today or tonight as the Yanks play a doubleheader without the benefit of the 26th man.

Warren has been a big part of the great job done by the rookie pitchers this season.  He, Preston Claiborne, and Vidal Nuno have combined to allow just 19 ER in 76.2 IP (2.23 ERA) after all getting their chance to make an impact because of injuries to the pitching staff.  As they’ve performed well they’ve seen their roles on the team change.  Warren is now the official long man out of the bullpen, Claiborne has worked his way into the mix for the 7th Inning Guy role ahead of D-Rob, and Nuno had probably bypassed Ivan Nova as the 6th starter before he hit the Triple-A DL.  For 3 guys who weren’t expected to provide much, if anything, to the Major League squad this year, it’s been a job very well done by all.

The same can’t be said for the position player rookies who’ve gotten their chance this year.  David Adams has almost disappeared from thought as a part of the offense after a hot first week replacing Kevin Youkilis.  He’s getting more PT again with Youkilis out but his season batting line sits at just .213/.234/.333 (.248 wOBA).  Were it not for his positive defensive rating he’d likely be another negative WAR player.

Austin Romine has been a negative WAR player since being called up to replace Frankie Cervelli.  -0.5 WAR to be exact, according to FanGraphs.  He’s hit even worse than Adams, with a frightening .132/.148/.170 triple slash to his credit.  Like Adams, he’s had a healthy K rate (26.8%) and like Adams, he’s yet to draw a walk in his Major League career.  133 combined plate appearances from these 2 and not a single base on balls.  That’s pretty bad.

Which brings us back to Zoilo.  He’s having a solid year in Triple-A (.297/.369/.421 in 293 PA) and appears to have finally made the necessary adjustment to his approach to create a slightly higher ceiling for himself at the next level.  Almonte’s current BB (10.2%) and K (16.0%) rates are much improved from where they were in Double-A in 2011 and 2012, and both those trends and his switch hitterness make him a more attractive option than the rest of what’s on the current Yankee bench.  But will that translate over to the Majors?

Almonte’s always struck out a lot more the first time jumping to a new level, almost as if his aggressive swinging tendencies come to the surface.  That kind of approach will get you exposed and picked apart quickly by Major League pitching.  He also has a very hefty platoon split for a switch hitter.  Almonte tunes up RHP (.303/.377/.451 in Triple-A this season) but has very little pop against lefties (.281/.342/.328).  It will be imperative for him to maintain the patience and improved selectivity he’s shown in Triple-A this season at this level, especially against righties.  If Zoilo gets out of sorts with his swing or approach here, he isn’t going to have borderline Quad-A guys grooving pitches to bail him out.  He’s going to have Justin Verlander, Yu Darvish, and Felix Hernandez throwing him more nastiness than he’s ever been able to comprehend and making him look silly on strikeouts.

The bar has been set pretty low for Zoilo, both by the rookies that have already been called up before him and the current crop of below-replacement level veterans giving away outs at the bottom of the batting order.  That being said, it’s not a slam dunk that Almonte is going to outperform them.  His history suggests he could be in for a rough go his first time experiencing this level and unlike Adams and Romine, he doesn’t offer much value by way of defense.  Joe’s going to have to be strategic with his use of Zoilo and put him in situations where he can be comfortable and successful, and then who knows?  Maybe he surprises us.

(Photo courtesy of the AP)

Boesch should not be a “major” option for Yanks

When I happen to be in my car during a Yankee game, listening on the radio, I’m surprised by just how often the Yankees face a “really good hitter.” That isn’t a distinction that I give out, but the radio voices of the team, John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman, sprinkle that phrase on batters quite liberally over the courses of the games and the season. One player they happen to lavish this praise upon is the now former Detroit Tiger, Brennan Boesch. John and Suzyn sure do love this guy and they even discussed it briefly last night during the game against the Phillies. Both commentators, of course, wanted the Yankees to give Boesch a shot. To their credit, they usually see Boesch rake against the Yankees. He owns a career line against the Bombers of .363/.369/.538/.907 with 3 home runs in 84 plate appearances. However, that is most definitely not an accurate picture of Boesch.

After hitting just .240/.286/.372/.659 (77 OPS+), Boesch’s career line is .259/.315/.414/.729. Now that’s certainly not terrible, but it’s not something that will solve the Yankees’ forecasted hitting woes. The only slightly interesting thing about Boesch, a lefty hitter, is that he has a reverse platoon split for his career, OPSing .717 against righties and .767 against lefties. That’s really about it. While we’re on his splits, it’s worth noting that Boesch has tended to start hot–he owns an .818 OPS in the first half for his career–and finishes cold: he has a .580 (!) OPS in the second half of the season. To me, this says that while Boesch gets off on the right foot, the pitchers are quickly able to knock him off of that foot and Boesch is unable to make adjustments. Given all of this, like Mike said yesterday, Boesch would be more of a project than a player of value. Signing Boesch to anything other than a minor league deal would be making a move for the sake of making a move, and we all know that doesn’t exactly work as a strategy. For whatever reason, though, he has some name cache among Yankee fans, probably because he’s happened to hit them well. Given Boesch’s profile–or lack thereof–I’d rather the Yankees just go to Zoilo Almonte if Melky Mesa–who’s seemingly won the open outfield job–can’t perform up to snuff. At least Almonte can switch hit and has flashed lots of power against righties in his minor league time.

Warren, Joseph, And Almonte Optioned Down To Triple-A

According to Joel Sherman, the Yankees have optioned Adam Warren, Corban Joseph, and Zoilo Almonte to Triple-A.

There was some belief that Almonte had a chance to win the outfield spot, but the switch hitter has hit just .190/.227/.333 in 22 plate appearances. Almonte has never played above Double-A, so he’ll have a chance to compete out of Scranton now. The third outfield spot is looking more and more like Melky Mesa‘s spot to lose.

Corban Joseph was also an option at third base, but his defense this Spring was proven awful. Joseph also put up an unimpressive .200/.286/.200 in his 28 plate appearances, but showed off a much stronger bat in last year’s season in Scranton.

Finally, Warren will now enter his third year in Triple-A. He wasn’t spectacular in his 3 starts (5.00 ERA but a 1.000 WHIP), but he’d have a chance at a starting job on most other teams. At 25 years old, Warren still has some value, and could be a trade chip with the Yankees’ starting depth.

Also, I’m not sure about his status, as on Monday it was reported that Brett Marshall was optioned to Scranton. Yesterday, Marshall appeared in the game against Tampa Bay, and according to the Yankees’ website, he’s been called up again. I’m not sure if that was a mistake or what’s going on, but I assume that Marshall is still with the team.

Briefly discussing the internal options to replace Curtis Granderson

With Curtis Granderson down and out for ten weeks or so, the Yankees have a hole in left field. No injury can have an upside though there can be silver linings. “Luckily,” a lot of Granderson’s rehab time will be taken up by Spring Training and he’ll be back in early May. But on that not-so-lucky side, since it’s Spring Training, the market for outfielders is pretty thin and obviously, the timing isn’t great. There are, however, some internal options.

Though it should be obvious, let’s just cross of Slade Heathcott and Mason Williams. Ramon Flores, who’s on the 40-man roster and whose star seems to be rising, should be discounted because of the fact that he’s so young (he’ll turn 21 next month). That leaves us with Zoilo Almonte and Melky Mesa. For brief rundowns of those two, check out this post from Yanks Go Yard.

To add to it, the Yankees have expressed excitement about Almonte. That article, in which Brian Cashman says he wouldn’t want to use a young guy as a bench outfielder, was written before Curtis Granderson’s injury. With Granderson out, though, there’s a starting spot open. What could give Almonte an edge is that he is a switch hitter. What’s more, Almonte seems to be a better hitter as a lefty batter. In 2012, Almonte crushed righties to the tune of .303/.349/.542 with 17 homers. For his career, Almonte has a line of .286/.345/.497/.842 against righties. His career line of .268/.323/.440/.763 against lefties isn’t terrible, but the line against righties is more encouraging and hints that he could handle the heavy side of a platoon.

On the other hand, there’s Melky Mesa. Mesa, who just turned 26 in January, has a ton of minor league experience and finally got a crack at the Majors last year. He’s a speedy and powerful right handed hitter who also has a bit of a hole in his swing. As a righty, we’d expect him to fill the light side of a platoon if he were on the big league team, but for his career, Mesa actually has a reverse platoon split: His OPS vs. LHP is .642 and his OPS vs. RHP is .808. And with his power/speed combo–and reportedly good defense–he could be the most logical replacement for Granderson since he offers some of the same tools.

If the Yankees go internal by using their minor leaguers as a Granderson replacement, they’ll need to make sure that the player they pick gets a lot of playing time, especially if it’s Almonte. As Cashman said, it’s not good for the player or the team if a young guy sits on the bench. If I had a choice, I’d go with Almonte. But if I know the Yankees, I think they’ll go with Mesa’s tools and experience before going to Zoilo.

Nightly Links: Hughes, Pettitte, Cuts

  • Aside from all the Andy Pettitte news today, the Yankees actually played a baseball game, a 4-3 win over the Nationals. Starting pitcher CC Sabathia went 3.0 innings and gave up 6 hits, 3 runs, 1 walk, and 2 strikeouts. Rafael Soriano relieved the big lefty with an innings worth of zeroes, but then Phil Hughes came in, and well… damn was he good. According to the YES gun he was sitting around 92, but at times reaching 94 and I seem to remember a 95 in there. He was hitting spots with his fastball too, as long as they weren’t up in the zone, but most importantly his curveball looked devastating. For all those complaining about the lack of an outpitch, his curveball saw plenty of swings and misses along with first pitch strikes looking. He finished the day with 4.0 innings, 3 hits (2 of which were hard groundballs off infielder’s gloves), and 3 strikeouts. Cesar Cabral also looked strong in 1.0 inning drawing 2 strikeouts. Offensively, Alex Rodriguez hit an absolute bomb, and Cano looked much better today, hitting the ball hard and earning himself a double. (Box Score)
  • As you know, I broke the story of Andy Pettitte returning to the Yankees this afternoon. (not really) If you missed Pettitte’s interview during the game today, here is the link. Brian Cashman also joined the booth to discuss the signing. Apparently he offered the lefty an 8 figure contract back in December to which Pettitte passed on, but the talks grew from there.
  • Shockingly, Chad Jennings has today’s workouts here.

Enjoy your weekend everyone.

Poll: Prospect Most Likely To Breakout This Spring

At the moment, any vacancy on the 25 man roster appears to be open for a reliever. Regardless, a strong enough spring could force management to consider one of the organizational prospects. Zoilo Almonte has impressed the most so far, going 5 for 6 with a double and a triple. Top prospects, Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos were scoreless in their debuts. Last year’s Scranton starters David Phelps and D.J. Mitchell were also scoreless, with teammate Adam Warren giving up one run through his first two innings. There’s also David Adams going one for four so far, a strong bat as a middle infielder who was only held back due to injury.

My pick is Zoilo Almonte, who has shown some very impressive numbers at his age, but has struggled when advancing to different levels. An impressive spring from the outfielder could put him in line to replace Nick Swisher after next offseason. The pitchers, Phelps, Mitchell, and Adams, could break camp with the team as a reliever or even as a starter assuming injuries. Even Austin Romine could recover from his back issues and make a splash as the backup catcher by the end of March.

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Which Prospect Do You Expect To Breakout?