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It's showtime for Colorado Rockies prospect Yency Almonte, now thriving in his new home

Yency 'Showtime' Almonte is a newcomer to the Rockies' organization, and thus far he's turned heads with his power repertoire.

Yency Almonte throwing earlier this summer for the Modesto Nuts.
Yency Almonte throwing earlier this summer for the Modesto Nuts.
Bobby DeMuro

Visalia, Calif. -- It's not often that a 20-year-old who hasn't pitched above Low-A gets traded straight up for a Major Leaguer. And it's even more improbable that the very next year, that now-21-year-old 17th round draft pick would get traded straight up—again, for a Major Leaguer. And yet here the Colorado Rockies find themselves with flame-throwing righty Yency Almonte, the product of last winter's Tommy Kahnle trade with the Chicago White Sox.

Almonte, who will turn 22 on June 4, is pitching in this first summer in the Rockies' organization with the High-A Modesto Nuts. An unknown entity going into this year, the tall, affable righty just cracked MLB.com's organizational top 30 prospects with the Rox after Trevor Story's graduation from the list, and may soon wind up on a future PuRPs list. But watch him pitch once or twice and you quickly understand why he's been moved from the Angels, to the White Sox, and on to the Rockies in exchange for big leaguers.

A 93-95 mph fastball (I've seen it run as high as 97 mph, as you'll see in the video below) coupled with a power slider that sits in the upper 80s make 'Showtime' a young, strong arm on which to dream. While some scouts contend that he profiles better long term in the bullpen (with a repertoire similar to Miguel Castro), Almonte is starting for the Nuts now, and trying to refine his delivery and offerings to see a lineup multiple times through. Nevertheless, it's the velocity that will always catch your eye.

"It started happening towards the end of last year, when my arm started getting stronger," the Miami-born pitcher says when I ask about his upper 90s fastball.

"I’m usually around 93-95 mph the entire game, but that day, that was just…" Almonte trails off, smiling. "I felt real good. emotions were high, trying to get a win for the team, and I didn’t know at the time how hard I was throwing, but I felt real good. After the game they told me I was throwing 97, and I was like, wow. Everything was going really good that day."

The 'that day' to which he is referring is this video (below), his first start with the Nuts a month ago against the Bakersfield Blaze:

Since then, Almonte has put together a strong summer for the league and level; he's now 3-3 with a 4.14 ERA in eight starts, and has whiffed 47 hitters and walked just 13 in 45.2 innings pitched. More telling, scouts have seen Almonte throw even harder still, with one reporting the righty topped out at 99 mph in a separate start two weeks ago. There's an undercurrent here, though, that I've heard time and again from pitchers on the Nuts' staff already this summer: Dom Nunez.

"I have Dom behind the plate, and working with Dom in spring training we kind of connected in that pitcher-catcher relationship," Almonte reveals of his catcher and our #13 Rockies prospect. "I rarely shake him off. I will once or twice, and he'll go right away to what I want to throw."

Of course, being 21 years old, Almonte will run into trouble from time to time when he fails to command his fastball, or his slider flattens out, or he leaves pitches out over the plate—even in the upper 90s. Two brilliant starts to open the season (both against Bakersfield) were followed by two poor starts and at one point three consecutive losses for the Floridian born to Dominican parents, before he turned things around and delivered two strong performances in the last week.

"That’s part of baseball," Almonte contends of failure on the field. "I learn from it, and I know what I have to do better. I’ve been working in my bullpens, and I’m ready for what’s next."

★ ★ ★

Of course, all that only tells half the story of Almonte, at least as far as Rockies fans are concerned. He's exactly eight games into his Rockies career now and, as I alluded to, far less recognized than some of his peers in Modesto simply by virtue of the fact that he keeps getting traded. What to make of that?

"That first time was a shock," Almonte admits, smiling as he looks back at being traded from the Angels to the White Sox on February 4, 2015 as the player to be named in the Gordon Beckham deal. "I was back home talking to my mom, and I get a phone call and find out I’ve been traded. They told me I was going to the White Sox. I was like OK, that’s fine, I’m going back to Arizona, nothing new."

But for the then-20-year-old kid, it wasn't exactly easy to adjust to a new organization once he arrived in Arizona a few weeks later for minor league spring training.

"I walk in the clubhouse with an Angels bag and everyone is looking at me," Almonte says, laughing now at the thought. "I’m turning heads. Oh man, I don’t know anybody. But it was at that moment that Peter Tago, who actually was with the Rockies, came up to me, and I was like, oh I know one guy, we’re good. I’m set."

'Affable,' as I used above, is probably a good way to sum up Almonte if only given a word to do it. As intense and fiery as he can be on the mound, he's equally laid back and helpful off it. He makes for a good interview, and I get the sense he probably makes friends pretty easily with a disarming smile and an easygoing nature. Nevertheless, things were tough for him last spring with the White Sox, an outsider new to the organization who knew, well, just one other player.

But a shy spring turned into a very strong summer—he was 8-4 with a 3.88 ERA in 17 games (16 starts) with Low-A Kannapolis before earning a promotion to High-A Winston Salem—and Almonte entered the offseason thinking he'd done all he could to impress the White Sox and give himself a future in his new organization.

Then, on November 20, the Rockies designated relief pitcher Tommy Kahnle for assignment to make space on their 40-man roster in order to protect prospects from the Rule 5 Draft. Four days later—just nine months and three weeks after he was initially traded to the White Sox—Almonte received another phone call.

"I was like, no way, this has to be a joke," the pitcher quips, still surprised about his whirlwind over the last year. "I called my pitching coach with the White Sox at the time and asked if it was true. He told me he didn’t think it was true, and that they were messing with me. But then he asked me the area code they were calling from. When I told him, he goes, 'oh yeah, you got traded.'"

Almonte shakes his head.

"I was like, 'oh, man, that’s not cool,'" he says, laughing at the unlikely chain of events. "But that’s part of baseball. I came in not as nervous as the first time, because it had happened before. And I came in knowing two or three guys from playing them in Ashevile, so it’s like all right, this shouldn’t be bad. I had a good year with the White Sox and I got traded, so my agent was like that's good, this means that someone wants you. I’m thankful for that."

In a strange way, Almonte is also thankful for the trade particulars; curious about how seriously players pay attention to their own roster movements, I ask whether he followed his trade counterpart, Kahnle, after the deal. Almost immediately, Almonte's face lights up at the idea that he's now been traded twice for Major Leaguers.

"I didn’t know at the time, and later they told me I was traded for a big leaguer," Almonte says. "They told me Tommy Kahnle, a relief guy, so I watched him throw. It was like, whoa, OK, that’s something to be happy about."

If 'Showtime' keeps humming a nearly triple-digit fastball to go along with that power slider, that'll be something for Rockies fans to be very happy about, too.