It’s not enough to build a strong farm system or develop a strong pitcher. Teams get ahead by continuously doing this and having a ready supply of players down on the farm. Usually, a team’s scouts have an idea before the draft and there are always scouts going through Latin America looking for a breakout player, but sometimes, a player just comes out of nowhere and jumps into the top of prospect lists.
Meet Miguel Almonte.
Signed in 2010, Almonte made his first appearances in the Royals organization. In 11.2 innings, he didn’t look much like the prospect he is today. The right-handed-pitcher walked seven and struck out nine in the Dominican Summer League. Not impressive at all, though he was only 18 years old. He returned to the DSL and it was a different story.
Starting in June, Almonte made 10 starts in the Dominican, covering 50 innings. He walked eight batters. Total. Meanwhile, he struck out 46 at that level. By the end of July, he was brought up to Arizona where he made six appearances and logged 27 innings that were impressive enough for the Royals to put him on the Burlington Royals roster during the Appalachian League playoffs.
He threw three relief innings in a league he’d never seen before and struck out four batters and didn’t give up a hit until the ninth batter he faced came up. Along with his four strikeouts, he had three groundouts and a flyout and popup out.
After his performance all season, he started to gain some attention. Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus mentioned him in an instructional league report and loved about everything about him. Almonte is 6’2″ and is listed at 160 pounds. His fastball reportedly hangs around 91 to 94 mph with a good changeup and a developing curve. After the Wil Myers trade, the Royals had two vacancies in their top ten rankings, so Almonte was bumped up. Jason Parks already had him among his top Royals prospects and raved about Almonte on the Kansas City Baseball Vault.
Some choice quotes from a few reports:
Almonte repeats his delivery well and already self-diagnoses to fix mechanical flaws on his own when they do crop up, giving him advanced command for his age. – Baseball America
It’s clear that Almonte’s raw abilities rank him among the best arms in the Royals’ system, but he will need to bring his complex league heroics to the bigger fields if he wants to win over a larger audience. This guy is legit, and it’s just a matter of time before every source is jumping on board the bus to champion his status. – Parks
Reminded me of a young Julio Teheran, with slightly less arm strength, but similar feel for changeup, similar fluidity in delivery/arm action; similar size; not in same class as Teheran (at present), but the similar characteristics aren’t a stretch. – Parks in another report
That’s pretty good praise and it’s clear that, while there’s some risk of the unknown here, Almonte looks like a strong bet to be in the top part of most Royals prospect lists.
Almonte turns 20 in April and his ascent in prospect ranks reminds me somewhat of Yordano Ventura‘s rise. Prior to the 2011 season, Ventura wasn’t a household name, though he had caught the attention of many with the ability to hit triple digits on the radar gun and in his 19-year-old season, had similarly strong K/BB numbers. He went from unranked in Baseball America’s rankings before the 2010 season to #12 before the 2011 season. He’d only pitched as high as the Arizona Rookie League before 2011, but opened up in Low A ball as a (soon-to-be) 20-year-old.
After his 2011 season, Ventura was in the top ten and now, he’s one of the Royals top five overall prospects and looking like a split between Double A and Triple A is in store for 2013. Bob Dutton suggests he may even hit Kansas City at some point this year and points out that some scouts see his upside as substantial.
So who knows? Perhaps in two years, we’re going to be talking about how Almonte is knocking on the door to the big leagues. By that point, he may join Ventura, Kyle Zimmer and John Lamb as a group of young guns continuing a run of Royals playoff appearances. Of course, the chance that he disappears or plateaus increases as he continues to rise to more competitive levels (just like any other minor leaguer), so there’s never a guarantee, but he could be a great discovery in the Royals system.