A reader asked me recently about Seattle Mariners outfield prospect Abraham Almonte, who was promoted to the major league roster a few days ago after a fine season in Triple-A. Here's my brief take on him.
Almonte was originally signed by the New York Yankees in 2005, out of the Dominican Republic, initially as a second baseman although he moved to the outfield after a couple of seasons in the low minors. Although undersized, he was a switch-hitter with good speed. He had a solid season in the South Atlantic League in 2009 (.283/.333/.391, 36 steals) but didn't fully blossom in the Yankees system, generally playing adequately well but not pushing his way onto top prospect lists. He also lost time to injuries, particularly a bad shoulder in 2010. He hit .276/.350/.392 last year in Double-A with 30 steals, which was very much in line with previous performance.
The Mariners acquired him this past February for Shawn Kelley. He hit .256/.367/.451 in 29 games for Double-A Jackson, then broke out with a .314/.403/.491 line in 94 games after being promoted to Triple-A Tacoma. The Pacific Coast League is good for hitting as everyone knows, but Tacoma is one of the better pitching parks and his home/road splits were reasonable. His wRC+ marks were almost identical between the Southern League (137) and the PCL (138). Overall he hit 15 homers, stole 26 bases, and drew 67 walks in the minors this year.
Almonte is a 5-9, 205 pound switch-hitter and right-handed thrower, born June 27, 1989. He's been overlooked due to his size and a history of injuries, but he's got some tools, with very good speed and some sock in his bat, particularly when he pulls the ball while hitting left-handed. PCL observers report that he handled both fastballs and breaking balls well this season, and he does a good job controlling the strike zone. He also drew good remarks for his defense.
I've been trying to think of a good comp. The first one that came to mind is a faster version of Warren Newson, if you remember him. Newson showed more power in the lower minors though, and Almonte is a better defender, so I'm not sure that holds up.
I'm not certain what the Mariners have here, but Almonte is certainly interesting. I hope the Mariners give him as much playing time as possible in September. He's done enough in the minors this season to merit a strong look as a fourth outfielder in 2014.