12. Yency Almonte (680 points, 38 ballots)
Entering 2016, Yency Almonte was a mostly off-the-radar prospect. The 2012 17th rounder of the Angels had shown enough promise to be the target of two trades (first to the White Sox as a player to be named later for Gordon Beckham before 2015 and then after the 2015 season, less than a year later, in return for DFA'd reliever Tommy Kahnle). Still, though, national prospect buzz eluded Almonte entering 2016. That all changed with a breakout campaign by the 22-year-old righty starter.
Almonte was a revelation this past season. He threw 138⅓ innings for the High-A Modesto Nuts in the tough pitching environment that is the California League against hitters that were on average 1.1 years older. In those frames, Almonte had a 3.71 ERA (4.13 FIP), 1.18 WHIP, 8.7 K/9, and 2.5 BB/9. He then got a late season promotion to Double-A Hartford, where in 30 innings over five starts he had a 3.00 ERA (albeit with a step back in his other rate stats) against hitters that were 2.5 years older on average.
More impressive than his pure results was the stuff. Almonte consistently sat in the mid 90s with his fastball and touched the upper 90s with good life on the pitch, and he featured a power slider that sat in the 80s. So far it appears that Almonte is a lottery ticket from an easy-to-miss trade that is panning out for Jeff Bridich and the Rockies. After that kind of season, the scouts are noticing.
Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs ranked Almonte 13th in the system:
His velocity has ticked up into the mid-90s, mostly 93-95. His average slider has middling length, but it’s hard, in the 82-86 range, and Almonte has begun locating it both out of the zone and within it where it plays better than a slider in the low 80s. Almonte has flashed average changeups throughout his minor-league career but consistent feel for maintaining his arm speed and placing the pitch in a competitive location have eluded him. It still projects as average, but Almonte turns 23 next June and if it doesn’t come soon it might be time to consider adding a pitch to deal with lefties.
Almonte profiles as a No. 4 or 5 starter. There’s a chance for more if he can outperform my changeup or command projections.
The aforementioned projections for the secondary pitches has the changeup reaching an average (50) grade and command a tick below average (45).
MLB.com spoke highly of Almonte's potential in their profile:
Drafted as a projectable right-hander, Almonte has added 25 pounds since turning pro, and his fastball has gotten stronger as well. He now sits at 93-96 mph and reaches 98 with life on his heater. He backs it up with a promising slider and an improving changeup.
Almonte throws strikes and keeps the ball down in the zone, so he should be able to remain in the rotation. He has a ceiling of a No. 3 starter and also could be a weapon as a reliever who could have a mid-90s fastball and a harder slider in shorter stints.
Finally, Jon Sickels of SBN site Minor League Ball ranked Almonte 11th in the system:
Fastball as high as 95, has improved slider and change-up, command will wobble at times but has the stuff to be a number three or four starter if he develops more consistency, or perhaps a power relief arm
Our own Bobby DeMuro was on Almonte all year in 2016, tracking his development in Modesto. Give his profile on Almonte a read and you'll be excited about this young arm too.
Almonte showed enough in 2016 with his arm talent and results for the Rockies to add him to the 40 man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. Realistically he could be up with the Rockies sometime in 2018, though it’s not clear in what role given the wave of rotation-caliber arms ahead of him on this list. If he's in the bullpen it will be as an impact late inning reliever and so the debut could be as early as late in 2017. Either way, I see Almonte as a potential impact major-league player, which is why he was given a 45+ Future Value from me and ranked 15th on my list.