Kansas City Royals Prospect Profile: Miguel Almonte
By David Hill
The Kansas City Royals, despite their top prospects typically being pitchers, have struggled to develop starters over the past few years. Yordano Ventura and Danny Duffy have been good, and may well develop into top of the rotation arms, but that remains to be seen. Kyle Zimmer has dealt with a plethora of injury issues, and Sean Manaea had his season delayed due to injuries as well. Brandon Finnegan may be better off as a reliever. The Royals simply have not had much luck with developing starters as of late.
That may be changing with Miguel Almonte. Almonte, who was ranked as the 56th best prospect in baseball according to Baseball Prospectus prior to this season. His overall numbers thus far are hardly overwhelming, as Almonte has posted a 4.02 ERA and a 1.375 WHiP for the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, to go along with a career low 6.9 strikeouts per nine innings, but that is partially by design. Right now, according to Andy McCullough, Almonte has been working on his fastball command, meaning that he has not used his devastating change as often.
Even if Almonte is posting numbers similar to the 4.50 ERA and the 1.264 WHiP that he produced in Wilmington last season, it is easy to see where he is not quite the same pitcher. Last year, Almonte struck out 101 batters in 110 innings, while issuing only 32 walks. Thus far, Almonte has laready walked 23 batters in 56 innings as he has struggled to control his fastball.
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This difference in approach is also noticeable when looking at how the opposition has hit Miguel Almonte thus far. While he had typically been a groundball pitcher who did not give up hard contact, that trend has shifted this season. Thus far, Almonte has allowed ground balls at a 38.9% rate, the first time that he has been more than one percentage point below the league average in his career. Meanwhile, Almonte’s 25.1% line drive rate is far above his previous career high of 20.0%, set with the Lexington legends back in 2013.
Despite Almonte being hit harder this season, it has not exactly translated into success. Opponents have only mustered a .296 batting average on balls in play, and the .256/.342/.394 batting line that he has allowed is right in line with last season. The biggest difference, when looking at the numbers, is Almonte’s control, as he has walked more than a batter per nine innings this season compared to 2014.
Should the Kansas City Royals be able to develop Almonte’s fastball command to the point where he can use his change to maximum effect, they could potentially have a truly special prospect on their hands. While Almonte is still considered one of the better minor league talents in baseball, that continued development of his fastball could be the determining factor as to what his ceiling may be. Otherwise, Almonte may not be the pitcher that some minor league scouts think he could be.
Miguel Almonte may look as though he is struggling this season, but there is more to the performance of this Kansas City Royals prospect than the numbers would indicate. It will be interesting to see how he fares during the second half of the 2015 season.