For the first part of the offseason the Pinstriped Bible staff will be grading 35 of the Yankees' main contributors to the 2013 roster. Their entire season will be taken into account, even if part of it came at the minor league level. We continue this series with Zoilo Almonte.
2013 Statistics: .236/.274/.302, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 3 SB, .257 wOBA in 113 plate appearances
2014 Contract Status: Controlled by Yankees, pre-arbitration
In an effort to inject some youth and speed into an aging outfield and an injury-depleted lineup, Zoilo Almonte was called up in June of this season. Almonte, 24, spent the past five years working his way up the minor league ladder, impressing with his speed on the base paths and his switch-hitting power at the plate. After pinch-hitting for his first few games, Almonte finally broke into the starting lineup on June 21 against the Tampa Bay Rays, taking the place in the outfield of the incomparable Vernon Wells.
He made an impact immediately, starting his career off with a bang by going 3 for 4 with a home run in his first start. He had shown quite a bit of pop in the minors, as he hit 21 home runs with 70 RBI in 106 games for Trenton last year. After his 3 for 4 performance, Almonte became a regular starter for the rest of the month, and he took advantage of this opportunity, hitting .303/.351/.485 with 5 RBI in nine games started. Part of this success (and part of the reason he was successful at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he hit .297/.369/.421 in two stints this year) was his increased plate discipline. He lowered his strikeout percentage from over 20% in 2012 to around 16% (both in Triple-A and the majors) this season. While his performance in June was certainly a small sample size, it seemed like, after a couple weeks of hot hitting, Almonte might be a perfectly productive and palatable replacement to man the outfield until Granderson returned.
But, as with the Yankees' season, a great start was not to be maintained Almonte's hitting fell off dramatically during the first part of July; he hit just .236/.276/.255 for the month, with no home runs and four RBI. Then, on July 19 in Fenway, he injured his ankle (because of course he did, it's the 2013 Yankees). Almonte spent the rest of July and all of August rehabbing his injury before finally making it back to the big leagues in September. However, with the Alfonso Sorianotrade and the return of Curtis Granderson, the Yankees now had quite a lot of outfielders, and Almonte struggled to find playing time. Even after Brett Gardner went down with a rib cage strain, Girardi stuck with Ichiro Suzuki instead of giving Almonte a chance to get some experience, and maybe give the lineup a lift (which Ichiro certainly wasn't doing). Almonte only snuck into the lineup once the Yankees' fate was sealed, starting the last four games of the season, in which he went 2 for 17.
Expectations weren't sky-high for the rookie, but the Yankees did recognize his potential to be a good contributor, both at the plate and in the field (hence his promotion in June). In his limited play in the big leagues, he met these expectations - he showed his potential, but he also showed that he still has a long way to go being a productive everyday player. While he posted good numbers during his stints this year in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and had a hot start to his major league career in June, he was awful at the plate after that. Still, this was his first trip to the majors and he barely got a chance to get his feet wet, so his season certainly can't be called a disaster. He's not quite there yet, but Almonte certainly has the potential to become a productive hitter on a good team if he's given the chance. Although, with a crowded Yankee outfield next season (Granderson, Soriano, Gardner, and another year of Ichiro for some reason), he might not get it. At least not in the Bronx.