Monday, March 24, 2014

Prospect Countdown: #5 Miguel Almonte

5. Miguel Almonte Right Handed Pitcher

Age: 20
Position: RHP
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 180
B/T: R/R
Acquired: Signed as non-drafted FA in 2010
From: Santiago, Dominican Republic

2013 Rank: 17

Landon Adams (4): In his first trip to full season ball, Miguel Almonte did nothing but impress. After an April which saw him post a 5.50 ERA over 18 innings, Almonte scorched the South Atlantic League competition for the final five months of the season. When all was said and done among pitchers with at least 125 innings, Almonte ranked third in the league in FIP (2.76), fourth  in SIERA (3.18), second  in K% (24.7), sixth  in BB% (6.7), and first in strikeouts per 9 innings (9.09).

When it comes to Almonte the Royals have a seriously advanced pitcher considering the fact that he has logged just 130 innings in full season baseball. Almonte has shown excellent command. His fastball sits in the mid 90s and his changeup was called the best in the system by Baseball America. At this point he feels like a safe bet to reach his mid-rotation potential (by pitching prospect standards) and could feature even higher if he can develop a quality third offering. 

Entering spring training most would have guessed that Almonte would open 2014, in the pitcher's paradise of Wilmington. Instead, there's been buzz that the Royals will begin the season with Almonte in Double-A Northwest Arkansas. While some would consider this to be an aggressive assignment for the soon to be 21 year old, I think he can handle the jump. With Almonte as advanced as he is, I don't see a huge purpose to sending him to Wilmington for two months just to dominate Carolina League competition. Instead the Royals should continue to push him and force him to develop a third offering.

Paden Bennett (7): Last season I cited Almonte's excellent command, good fastball, and changeup as reasons to be excited about this Royals Dominican pitching prospect. After another excellent season, there is genuine reason to believe that the Royals have a gem in Almonte. Still throwing in the middle 90s and with a dynamite changeup, Almonte will need to develop a quality curveball or slider before he can make good on his front end potential. 

Joe Cox (3):  Miguel Almonte a personal favorite of mine when it comes to Royals prospects.  Last season I spoke of him as a guy who could make positive strides, but he was able to outperform expectations.  Almonte threw 130 innings in Lexington, ending the year with a 3.10 ERA and 2.76 FIP.  For the second year in a row, Almonte was able to limit walks and home runs while striking out around a batter per inning.  

He has also done pitched in leagues that are appropriate for his age, as 2014 will be Almonte’s age 21 season.  Professional prospect evaluators like Almonte’s polish and his chances to have a plus fastball, change, and off-speed offering.  It seems likely that Almonte will spend majority of his season in AA, and like Bonifacio could be moved aggressively.  We could very well see Almonte’s major league debut sometime in 2015, hopefully joining a rotation that already consists of Ventura and Zimmer. 

Dan Ware (5): I was thoroughly pleased with the season Almonte put on display last year, and if you failed to watch the MLB Futures Game during the All-Star break, you missed a solid inning from the 20 year old Dominican native.  Miguel faced Detroit Tigers catching prospect James McCann, inducing a groundball to 3rd, struck out Minnesota Twins' top prospect Byron Buxton, and forced a shallow flyball to RF by St. Louis Cardinals's #3 prospect Kolten Wong.  

Almonte has flourished through the system, and won't turn 21 until April.  He has a fastball that stays in the 91-93 mph range, but can hit 96 mph.  His changeup, ranked the best in the Royals' system, sits around 82-86 mph, which is a solid difference in velocity compared to the heater.  What impresses scouts is the repition of his mechanics and his ability to keep his pitches low in the zone, which shows in his solid groundball rate of 45% and BB rate of 6.3%.

Miguel has proven himself to be a top pitching prospect in the organization, after succeeding in already 3 Leagues at the young age of 20.  I don't expect any setbacks in the coming season, as he'll most likely join the Blue Rocks' rotation in the pitcher-friendly Carolina League. 

Nicholas Ian Allen (--): After a tremendous season in Rookie ball in 2012, Almonte got off to a rough start to the 2013 season. He allowed at least two earned runs in each of his April starts, none going longer than 5.1 innings. He ended the first month with a 0-3 record and 5.50 ERA and surrendered a .315 batting average.

The soon-to-be 21-year old settled down from there and posted a sub-3.29 ERA each month the rest of the way. He did his best work in late June and July, keeping hitters In the second half of the season he held opponents to a .225 average over 69.1 innings, and posted a 2.47 ERA in 13 starts, including a six-inning complete game June 30.

Initially, I was ready to project Almonte as a future closer. It stands to reason with all the high-impact arms in the system they can’t all end up in the rotation. But instead, Almonte actually seems worthy of and suited for the rotation. Furthermore, over the course of 2013, he needed some time to settle in.  

He allowed leadoff hitters a .285/.348/.415 slash, his worst of any situational pitching, but got stronger in the second turn through the lineup, holding hitters under the Mendoza line and allowed only eight earned runs in 42.1 innings combined in the fourth and fifth innings of games. And, strangely enough, Almonte had quite the split in day games as opposed to night games. Maybe he is a late sleeper? In seven early starts, the right-hander went 1-3 with a 4.86 ERA and allowed a .268 average. On the other hand, he went 5-6 with a 2.50 ERA and .226 BAA in 15 starts under the lights.

In all, Almonte put together another strong season that showed his talent and durability. It seems reasonable that he will open with Wilmington and could possibly see time in Double-A this year. If all goes well, Almonte could be ready for the big leagues in 2015.

Total Points: 105

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