Zoilo Almonte has made a slow, but steady climb through the Yankees minor league ranks for the majority of his career. The climb should continue, but the “slow” part of it may not if he can get off to a hot start this season.
The 22-year-old Dominican-born outfielder was promoted from High-A Tampa to Double-A Trenton last season with minimal hype, and had a pretty non-descript 46 game stint with the Thunder to finish out the season. He hit .251 with three home runs and 23 RBI in 175 at-bats, and posted a .686 OPS that was .019 below the collective team total.
But tools don’t always translate into numbers, at least not right away, and Almonte has always had those. While he doesn’t have a standout attribute, he’s quite well-rounded, and he really got the attention of the organization with a strong spring training this season.
“The (attention) really doesn’t cross my mind. I am here to work hard and keep getting better,” said Almonte through a translator.
Almonte spent some time with Alex Rodriguez and former Trenton Thunder star Robinson Cano in spring training, and both he and the Yankees can only hope that he’s better off for it.
“Watching them I see the discipline and focus they bring to their job, how professional they are in how they go about their business,” Almonte said. “Off the field they showed how to conduct yourself off the field and how to try and be as good of a person as you can because that’s really important, too.”
In a system that Baseball America consideres the sixth-best in all of baseball, Almonte is rated as the Yankees 19th-best prospect, ahead of David Phelps and teammates David Adams and Chase Whitley. Of the six outfielders among the top 30 prospects in the system, Almonte is the furthest along in the system and was added to the Yankees 40-man roster in the off-season.
“It feels good,” said Almonte about being considered a prospect.
“Hopefully if I keep working hard I can keep progressing forward. (The) main thing I have learned is mental strength – how to get through a whole year, stay focused and improve. I’m just going to do what I have been doing – go up to the plate and have as good of an at bat as I can and try to hit the ball solid. My only goal every year is to work harder than I did the year before and not only get better but improve my approach. Last year was a good year and this year I am going to be as strong of an approach as I can. I want to get better at running the bases, but really across the board – defense, batting average – I am looking to improve in all areas.’’
Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT gmail.com // Twitter: Mashmore98