The Mariners traded Shawn Kelley, who they DFA’d last week, to the Yankees for minor league outfielder Abraham Almonte, who is not on the 40 man roster and was a non roster invitee to the Yankees camp before the trade. The 23 year old spent 2012 in AA and had a 103 wOBA + and 106 OPS +. At 5-9 205, Almonte has a somewhat strange frame (he packs a lot into his short stature), but has played mostly centerfield in his career.
Almonte is not really considered a big prospect, depending on who you talk to, he seems to project anywhere between a 4th outfielder to never reaching the Majors. He once seemed to be considered a sleeper in the Yankees system, but has really has struggled with injuries, playing just 15 games in 2010 and 85 games in 2012.
My rankings/odd system really liked Almonte, ranking him 50th out of 475 AA and AA players when considering offense, baserunning, and defense. Just 2 Mariners ranked ahead of him.
Just looking at him offensively, his odd percentage of success with the bat in the Majors is 36.6 %, which is about 200th in the rankings, with the closest Mariner being Denny Almonte (I believe there is no relation). So again, when just looking at the bat, he isn’t a big prospect, and is perhaps just a little better than the run of the mill AA player. Almonte walks at a good amount, strikes out at a rather reasonable rate, but doesn’t hit for much power.
He had some bizarre home/road splits in 2012, as his K/BB was very good at home, and very mediocre on the road. Almonte had about the same GB % at both home and the road, but hit for slightly better power (though not good) at home than on the road. Trenton’s park played neutral compared to league average and when you park adjust his stats, they really aren’t any different. His overall numbers do seem to suggest he has taken a slight step forward from his two years in A + (really just one year since he missed most of 2010). So that is a good sign, he didn’t see a statistical drop-off in AA, ignoring the usual bump in the road that is A+ to AA. Obviously a decent approach, which his numbers seem to suggest he has, helps, and may be why he didn’t see the big drop off.
A switch hitter, Almonte hasn’t really shown much platoon splits other than some more strikeouts as a lefty. On that side of the plate, he has a pull and somewhat jailbreak swing. He seems to excel at pitches high, especially up and in, in the zone with his flat high swing. However, his motion is not fluid, and the way the swing is designed, I would think you would be able to get in on him in the low and medium part of the strike zone, and it would seem that you can pitch him away. Obviously this is a lot of holes, and would explain why his walk percentage doesn’t change, as his plate discipline doesn’t, but his strikeouts do increase.
Thunderbaseball.wordpress.com has a whole lot of videos of Almonte’s at-bats on YouTube, so if you want to watch him without having a MiLB.TV subscription, this is a good way. Bat speed is certainly not a problem for Almonte, as he appears to have strong wrists that allow him to swing the bat smoothly (though again, his overall mechanics aren’t smooth) and quickly.
Speed is his game (nearly every video I saw of him batting had him trying to bunt on the first pitch or two), ranked 20th in the rankings according to speed score in 2012. He stole 30 bases in AA in 2012, and was only caught 5 times. In fact, he has 176 steals in his minor league career, and was caught 57 times, good for a 75.5 stolen base percentage, which is extremely efficient. To give you an idea of what kind of player he is, he has 39 triples in his minor league career with just 32 homers. He is clearly a speed type outfielder that is suited to play centerfield and in a very ideal world, develop the OBP skills to be a leadoff hitter.
I got him at 11.24 on a triple, which is faster than Trayvon Robinson and closest to Goryks Hernandez out of the times I have. The size is a little weird, as you wonder if the weight will start to hurt his speed, but on the other hand, it is doubtful that he will fill out anymore naturally and have the speed deteriorate early on his career (especially since he is still fast). Obviously an x-factor that we can’t measure is whether or not he will be able to stay in shape and keep off enough weight to stay fast, but that is what trainers/coaches are for, and we have no idea what his work ethic/eating habits are (he could be an extremely hard worker and dieter, or he could be horrible, to judge without knowing is irresponsible).
According to 2012 FRAA data, he was slightly above average defensively, and ranked 180th. However, previous seasons of FRAA data really didn’t like him at all, and in 2012, he played more corner outfield than he ever has before. RTZ data, before they quit measuring it, was a little spotty on Almonte, saying he had one really nice season and one really bad season, but overall he was below average.
So he doesn’t seem to be in the mold of Trayvon Robinson or Darren Ford as he is a less sure thing defensively. The lack of plus defense, and certainty of sticking in centerfield really hurts Almonte’s value, and seems to make him a “tweener”. He clearly is not hitting for enough power to be a corner outfielder, and his OBP skills seem okay, but not really plus. So he may run into the problem Trayvon Robinson did, though those issues were more about his arm that shifted him to left in the Majors (especially since the club seemed to prefer Michael Saunders defense in center, and Franklin Gutierrez plays in center when he actually plays).
Juan Pierre has made a career out of being a very good speed guy, high batting average guy with not many walks and mediocre at best corner defense, but Pierre was mostly overrated (at least according to salaries and WAR) in the 2nd half of his career, and doesn’t fit into a common mold anyway. My guess would be that Almonte has some problems with jumps and reads, as his speed and range shouldn’t be a problem. If the problem is jumps and reads, then hopefully there is a chance he could improve (though a lot of this may have to do with instincts that don’t really grow). It doesn’t seem that his arm is weak, at least not according to the scouting reports I have read. A lot of Almonte’s future value will depend on whether or not he is able to stay in centerfield. As a corner outfielder, Almonte doesn’t have any value since he isn’t a sure thing with the bat, and doesn’t hit for any power at all. As a centerfielder, especially if he is above average defensively, he can use his speed and defense to be a solid little player for the Mariners. He certainly is less of a sure thing than Shawn Kelley, even when you factor in the elbow issues. His ceiling may be a little higher just because there is a chance he can play centerfield and Kelley is just a reliever. My guess is that Almonte starts in Tacoma unless he just really disappoints in spring training, in which he would go to AA Jackson, repeating the level.