Player Spotlight: Zoilo Almonte, OF

(This post is being syndicated from New York’s Homegrown)

This past March, I went down to Tampa to watch a few Spring Training games.  I also was able to get passes to the Minor League Spring Training complex and watch players take batting practice and stuff like that.  The man who got me these passes is a scout for the Yankees and a family friend who scouts in Latin America.  We were watching the Tampa Yankees take BP when he told me to keep an eye on the guy who was at the plate, a guy he had signed.  That player was Zoilo Almonte.

(Mark LoMoglio)

At first, I was unimpressed as through his first 33 games, Zoilo was only batting .225 with two homers, but then he got injured and he was on the shelf for a few weeks. Something must have happened while he was on the disabled list because when he came back he was not the same player.

In June, Almonte hit .352/.433/.761 with ten homers and 27 RBI’s and was a force in the middle of the Tampa lineup. He has carried this into July (although SSS), he is hitting .333/.400/.500.  This has brought his whole hitting line up to .283/.354/.545. This a huge improvement for a guy who had to repeat Rookie Ball.

Zoilo had a wOBA of .325 in his first year in the GCL in 2006 and then went down to .313 the year after.  His walk rates were below seven each year while his strikeout rates almost hit twenty.  He turned it around in 2008 in Staten Island, however, posting a .371 while lifting his walk rate into double digits, but striking out even more.

(Mark LoMoglio)

The walk and strikeout trends continued as he played for Low-A Charleston in 2009 and then for Tampa last season.  It even continued for the first month and a half this season until his plate discipline suddenly improved dramatically.  In the last two years, his BB% fell below ten and now it’s back above and and now his K%, which was in the high-twenties in the past two years, has dropped to the low-twenties.  These subtle things have improved his game tremendously.  It allows him to see more pitches, and the pitches that he is swinging at are better to hit.

The bat has always been there with him and so has the speed (he has swiped 11 bags in 15 attempts), but he has seemingly put it together in the last few months.  He is 22 though, which is pretty old for a prospect still in A Ball, which means if he keeps playing the way he’s playing, we could see him Trenton soon.

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