Scouting Yankees Prospect #43: Zoilo Almonte

Almonte needs to be more consistent

The New York Yankees signed outfielder Zoilo Almonte out of the Dominican Republic as one of their top International free agents back in 2005. Always considered a high-ceiling prospect, he didn't really break out until a year ago and he showed that promise in spurts once again in 2010.

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

He hit a combined .269 with a career-high 13 home runs over two A-ball levels this past season and tied his career high with 15 stolen bases. While they are solid numbers overall, the fact is he ran hot and cold again.

"I've seen him in Spring Training the last three years," Tampa manager Torre Tyson said. "He's just one of those guys where some days you're like 'nah' and other days you're like 'wow'.

"Some days you're like 'I don't think he can play everyday' and the next day you think he's an All Star in the big leagues. For me it's a matter of consistency, bringing it out the consistency of his tools and becoming a better ball player."

Becoming a consistent force is what every burgeoning big league player strives for at the minor league level -- it's why they are there -- but the foundation is already in place for him to be a potentially special player.

"He was fun to watch, especially right before he got called up," Charleston manager Greg Colbrunn said. "He put together a real good year. He came into the season and we had four outfielders who were pretty much playing the same amount of time, and he went from batting second or third to leading off for us. He did everything we asked.

"Once he settled down into the middle of the lineup though, he took off. Right-handed or left-handed, he swung the bat well. He's got a real good set of hands on him from the right and from the left. Usually when you see a switch-hitter he's better from one side, but with Zoilo he was good from both sides.

"Defensively he's got a cannon for an arm, he moves around good and plays all three outfield spots. He put himself in a good situation this year and hopefully he can build on it next year."

He actually hit the second most home runs of any Yankee A-ball player in 2010 [outside of Melky Mesa] and did so in pronounced pitching friendly parks, and it's that kind of promise that has had observers dreaming of what could be if he ever developed a consistent bat.

"He doesn't look like a guy who is going to be able to hit the ball that far, but he's got some of the best opposite field power I've ever seen. I compare it to [Jesus] Montero of '08 and Melky Mesa of '09," Charleston broadcaster Danny Reed said earlier in the year.

"It's not at the same level of Montero who could hit it out of any part of any park, but looking at [Almonte] he only stands 5-foot-10 and 180 [pounds] but when the ball goes the other way off of his bat, it's like it's an explosion.

"I don't know what it is about him - he has a good, strong set of wrists, he has good forearms, and he's probably one of the stronger guys on the team, but just because you have power-strength in the weight room doesn't mean you're going to hit home runs. But he's able to translate it.

"He's got a nice, easy swing. It's almost like he's sleeping up there sometimes but when he makes contact he's one of the guys that causes you to get whiplash because you don't know where the ball is going to land."

Year

Team

AVG

AB

2B

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

SO

OBP

SLG

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 has always had above average power potential despite putting up average home run totals at the lower minor league levels and he started showing it more this past season. He has good power to all fields, especially from the left side, and he does it with a nice, easy swing. The switch-hitter has consistent swing mechanics from both sides of the plate, a rare trait for a young player still in A-ball, and he has a good idea of the strike zone. His strikeouts spiked up in 2010 but nobody seems too concerned at this point, that it was more an aberration than anything.

Base Running and Speed. He has improved his speed in recent years to become more of an average base stealing threat. He does tend to have the occasional base running gaffe from time to time and he still hasn't learned the nuances of the running game to become a consistent force, but he's good for double-digit stolen base totals each year.

Defense. Almonte has also become a better and more versatile defensive player in the outfield. He had a strong arm, decent range, and he has gotten better jumps on balls off of the bat, so much so that he could play all three positions in a pinch. He is still better served play left field, however, where he could be an above average defensive player.

Projection. Almonte has everything in place to project as a potential reserve outfielder right now: solid defense, strong arm, switch-hitting abilities, above average power, and solid hitting ability. He still is a bit too streaky right now to project as anything more at this point, but the natural talent is there to have the ceiling of a big league run producing starting outfielder should he become more consistent at the plate. Right now he lies somewhere in between a Melky Cabrera type and a switch-hitting Raul Ibananez type ceiling-wise.

ETA. 2013. Almonte will start the 2011 season right where he ended up, in the Florida State League. He should see some Double-A time, however, and next year will be a pivotal season for him to develop that much needed consistency.

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