2018 Royals Season Preview – Miguel Almonte

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 01: Pitcher Miguel Almonte
KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 01: Pitcher Miguel Almonte /

Viewed as a lite version of the late Yordano Ventura, there has always been lots of hype surrounding Miguel Almonte. Many expected him to return to the MLB and have an extended stay in 2017. Instead, he contributed just two innings of work at the major league level. Things certainly didn’t go as planned. Heading into the season with a clean bill of health, is 2018 the year Almonte makes the leap from MiLB prospect to MLB bullpen piece?

If you haven’t yet read the Kings of Kauffman season previews for Burch Smith and Andres Machado, I highly suggest doing so. Both Machado and Smith are pieces that could fly under the radar for the first few months of the season, but carve out niches as 2018 rolls on. Many Royals fans may remember Miguel Almonte‘s debut and subsequent (although brief) contributions from 2015. Almonte spent the entire 2016 season struggling in the Royals’ AA and AAA minor league affiliates. His promising 2017 season was cut short due to injury. Once one of the top prospects in the farm system, does Almonte have what it takes to get back to the MLB in 2018?

What did he offer last season?

Almonte started the season in Northwest Arkansas with the Royals’ AA club. It would be an understatement to say he was very good while there, posting a 1.86 ERA and striking out 35 batters in 29 innings of work. Six of the seven games Almonte appeared in were starts. After being called up to the Royals on May 23, Miguel made an appearance during a game in Cleveland, allowing four hits and three runs in one inning of work. Instead of sending him all the way back to Northwest Arkansas, the Royals decided to give their young pitcher some experience in Omaha.

Miguel Almonte’s trial in AAA wasn’t as successful as his dominant stay in AA, but it was still very good. In 18 innings (three starts and six relief appearances), Almonte posted a remarkably low 1.50 ERA, but with a much more normal 3.89 FIP. He also managed to fan 17 batters. He was recalled to the Royals on July 1 when he pitched a scoreless, one-hit inning against the Minnesota Twins. Subsequently, Almonte returned to AAA Omaha, where he didn’t escape the month without suffering an injury. His last game pitched in 2017 came on July 24. The Royals recalled Almonte and placed him on the 60-day disabled list on August 22 due to a rotator cuff strain, officially closing the door on his 2017 season.

What can we expect in 2018?

Here’s a 2017 tidbit from John Sickels’ profile of Miguel Almonte on minorleagueball.com:

"“At this best he features a mid-90s fastball, an above-average change-up, and an average breaking ball. He did not show his best stuff for most of 2016, hampered by mechanical difficulties that hurt both his velocity and location, but he’s returned to impressive standards in 2017…”"

I believe Mr. Sickels meant “at his best,” but you all get the message. When Almonte is at the top of his game, he can be dangerous. Everyone got a taste of that with the AA version of Miguel, but it remains to be seen if he can bring that to the major league level. Here are the Steamer projections for Miguel Almonte’s 2018 season:

  • 6 appearances (all starts)
  • 37.0 innings pitched
  • 5.10 ERA
  • 30 K’s

This is interesting, to say the least. I never considered Almonte joining the starting rotation in 2018. With the inconsistency and injury concerns, he is currently best suited in a bullpen situation against major league batters. I’ll take the over on appearances, but the under on innings. My best guess is 20 innings pitched this year with the Royals, regardless of how many times he’s called up or assigned to AAA. I’ll take the under on strikeouts. Pitching a low amount of innings could serve as a blessing or a curse for Almonte’s ERA. One bad game could ruin 10-15 good ones using that stat. With that said, I’m still taking under 5.10 in 2018.

The verdict

Miguel Almonte has plenty of potential. He’s turning only 25 years old in April. It certainly isn’t too late for him to put the pieces together. He may not begin the season with the Royals, but could quickly join the club if he returns to his 2017 form. With a plus fastball and changeup, the pitches are there. The issue with Almonte is his control, which is a legitimate concern. If the stuff remains potent and the control improves, look out for Miguel Almonte in 2018.

What do you think, Royals fans? Is this the year Almonte cashes in on his potential and makes some strides in the MLB? Will he struggle out of the gate? Can he stay healthy? The speculation will only continue as the season approaches. Let us know what you think!