8. Yency Almonte (803 points, 34 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, who is suddenly really good now). Still, though, national prospect buzz eluded Almonte entering 2016. That all changed with a breakout campaign by the righty starter.
Almonte was a revelation in 2016, breaking into widespread prospect consciousness. In that campaign the righty starter compiled a 3.58 ERA and a 8.3 K/9 rate in 1681⁄3 innings across High A and Double A. 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. Almonte was rewarded that off-season with a 40 man roster slot.
In 2017 the 23-year-old Almonte again pitched at two levels despite two separate short stints on the DL that limited him to 21 starts and 1111⁄3 innings. Almonte began the year in Hartford against players who were on average 1.3 years older, where in 14 starts and 761⁄3 frames he recorded a 2.00 ERA (3.38 FIP), 1.17 WHIP, and 8.4 K/9 rate. He received a promotion in July to Triple A, where he started seven games and threw 35 innings with a less palatable 4.89 ERA (7.04), 1.77 WHIP, 5.7 K/9 rate, and 5.4 BB/9 rate in a very difficult pitching environment. Despite the rough stretch in Albuquerque, Almonte was selected to the Arizona Fall League, where he pitched out of the bullpen, allowing 16 runs in 20 2⁄3 innings for the Salt River Rafters. Almonte had an ugly 2.52 WHIP in the AFL, but at least he struck out more than a batter per inning.
Here’s some video of Almonte pitching in the AFL courtesy of Baseball Census:
Almonte was recently ranked as the 4th best prospect in the system by Baseball Prospectus—they’re the high group on him that I’ve seen, giving him a 55 OFP and 50 likely role. Here’s Jeffrey Paternostro’s evaluation of Almonte:
The Good: Almonte dominated Double-A this season pitching off his fastball. There’s plus velocity here, sitting 93-95. He is comfortable throwing it to all four quadrants and the command of the pitch covers for only average arm-side movement. Almonte measures out the fastball and can find more velocity late when he needs it. He also shows advanced pitchability despite the fastball-heavy approach. He has two intriguing secondaries: a mid-80s slider that flashes above-average with solid tilt, and a mid-80s change that was more inconsistent than the slider, but also maybe has a bit more projection. His delivery has an easy tempo to it—reminds me a bit of German Marquez’s—and he gets downhill and stays on line well.
The Bad: The stuff outside the fastball is more “intriguing” than “consistently above-average.” The change can be firm at times. The slider can miss badly or back up. It’s not an ideal starting pitcher’s frame, and the arm action is a little concerning especially in light of a recurrent shoulder issue in 2017. The stuff may play better in the pen even with his ability to measure out his arsenal.
The Risks: He’s close to major-league-ready. He’s been relatively durable in the minors. He’s also on the slim side for a starter and has had some minor recurring shoulder issues.
Almonte is ranked 10th by MLB.com:
Drafted as a projectable right-hander who topped out at 92 mph in high school, Almonte has gained 25 pounds since turning pro and now sits at 93-96 mph and reaches 98 with some sink on his fastball. His mid-80s slider is harder than it is sharp but can be a plus pitch at times. He’ll also flash an average changeup, though it lacks consistency.
Almonte has a durable build, throws strikes and keeps the ball down in the zone. He has all the ingredients to fit in the middle of the rotation and shouldn’t require much more development time. If for some reason he doesn’t make it as a starter, he could be a high-leverage reliever whose stuff shows even more power in shorter stints.The results have been great, but so too has been the stuff. Almonte consistently sits in the mid 90s with his fastball and has touched the upper 90s with good life on the pitch while featuring a power slider sitting in the 80s.
Almonte has now used a minor league option year and sits at Triple A with something still to prove at the level. He’ll likely serve as starter depth starting in Albuquerque in 2018, with a high likelihood that he’ll make his big league debut sometime during the year. Then again, the Rockies have jumped pitchers like Almonte up to the Show earlier than expected before.
It’s not clear what Almonte’s role will be in MLB given the wave of rotation-caliber arms ahead of him in the majors, though it’s most likely as starter depth when injuries inevitably strike. I see Almonte as a potential impact major-league player, which is why I gave him a 50 Future Value and ranked him 7th on my list.