On Monday night, I had the chance to watch the Lowell Spinners take on the Staten Island Yankees game at Richmond County Bank Stadium. Since I got to the game early, I was able to get an extended look at the evening’s starting pitcher, Jose Almonte, during his bullpen session. Thus, what follows is a scouting report on Almonte’s game as well as a projection for what he might look like if/when he reaches the bigs.
As usual, I like to begin my reports with a brief background on scouted players. Almonte, 19, was signed out of Santo Domonp by the Red Sox for $610,000 in 2012, meaning he was a pretty highly-regarded international prospect. He stands 6-2, weights 175 pounds, and throws right-handed. Almonte has enjoyed good success so far in pro ball, owning a 3.00 ERA and minuscule 0.3 HR/9 across 26 starts career starts in the DSL, GCL, and now the NYPL.
Almonte utilizes a Johnny Cueto-like rotation in order to generate extra giddy-up on his fastball. He begins his motion standing on the third base side of the mound, lifts his leg, and then complete a half rotation towards second base before releasing the ball. The 19-year-old gets excellent stride length, though he does not appear to use his legs all that much. He throws at a 3/4 arm slot, which sometimes negatively affects the movement of his breaking pitches. His delivery looks very repeatable and low-effort.
The Santo Domingo native’s fastball that is far more developed than the rest of his arsenal. Almonte’s heater typically sits between 91 and 92, touching 93 on occasion. That is up from spring reports which clocked the pitch around 87 or 88 mies per hour. The right-hander is able to control his fastball with ease; even opposing manager Pat Osborne was impressed with the righty’s precision.
"Later in the game, he really was able to command his fastball on both sides of the plate. I liked his delivery, the ball comes out well, but I was most impressed with the way he moved the ball in and out later in the game."
Like many young pitchers, Almonte really struggles to consistently break off good breaking balls. His relatively low arm slot, I believe, makes it extremely difficult to get on top of his curveball, which led to many high, hanging hooks during his bullpen session. However, when Almonte did get a hold of his curve, it actually turned out to be a pretty decent pitch. A few times during the game, nearly out of nowhere, Jose dotted the outside corner with an 11-5 curveball that froze the Yankee batters. I would say this pitch has the potential to be average or better with more consistency.
For his second off-speed pitch, Almonte throws a straight change in the low-80s. The youngster keeps his arm speed consistent on this pitch, fooling multiple Yankee hitters into slapping ground balls. The change also has benefit in that it is equally effective against righties as it is versus lefties. Personally, I don’t think his change will ever be a plus pitch, but it could earn a 50-55 grade in the future.
One of the hardest things about prospect writing is projecting what a teenager will do as at maturity. Yet, that is what I am forced to do with Jose Almonte.
His fastball has good life for a 19-year-old, and I could see him adding a few more ticks of velocity to the pitch. His change flashes average potential and his curve could be serviceable eventually.
Ultimately, I believe Almonte’s future lies in the bullpen. He struggled putting away hitters during the game and was extremely fastball-dominant, making it seem unlikely he develops his repertoire enough to get hitters out consistently for six or more innings. Yet to reach 20, though, Almonte still has time to correct my prediction. Best-case, if his stuff ever matches his command, maybe the 2012 signee finds a home in the back-end of a rotation.