Rockies Prospect Yency Almonte Is Turning a Corner in Hartford

Yency Almonte is scheduled to take the mound for the Hartford Yard Goats this weekend. It will be the 22-year-old right-hander’s first appearance since May 3, when shoulder discomfort cut short his fifth start of the season.

Prior to being shelved, Almonte excelled. The No. 13 prospect in the Colorado Rockies system has a 1.37 ERA, and Eastern League opponents have hit .189 against his power mix. He was almost untouchable when I saw him live. On April 20, Almonte allowed just four baserunners, and fanned 10, over seven scoreless innings against Harrisburg.

When I caught up to him a few weeks later, the first thing I asked about was the velocity escalation I’d witnessed. Almonte had sat 91-92 in the early innings. By game’s end, he was consistently 95-96.

“I like to spot up and not overdo it early,” explained Almonte. “I know that once the game goes on, and I start getting warm — I start getting hot — I start getting it up there. This year, I’ve been anywhere from 91 to 99.”

Reigning in a tendency to overthrow has been a focus. According to Yard Goats pitching coach Dave Burba, the youngster has been guilty of trying to light up radar guns.

“Earlier in the season, we had a little sit down and talked about being a pitcher and not a thrower,” said Burba. “We talked to him about not throwing the ball with max effort every pitch. Because you throw hard doesn’t mean you have to throw everything 96-97 to get hitters out. He’s realized that it’s a lot easier to throw the ball where you want it when you’re under control. He’s made a great adjustment and started executing pitches.”

Based on my conversation with Almonte, he is indeed a good listener. The Miami native echoed Burba when I asked him to elaborate on not overdoing things.

“Throwing 94-95 is plenty enough to get the job done,” said Almonte. “I don’t need to go out there trying to throw 98-99. When I was younger, I always thought, ‘Overpower guys with the fastball,’ but I’ve learned that it’s more important to pitch.

“I know that I throw hard. Everyone knows that. So it’s all about… sometimes I get amped up. I know that, too. If someone gets on base, I’m not trying to overthrow, but I guess it’s an instinct to try to throw as hard as I can to get the next guy. That’s not what I want to be doing.”

Batters who sit nothing but dead red against Almonte are making a mistake, which I saw firsthand. Harrisburg hitters waved at an array of sliders and changeups. The former is Almonte’s go-to secondary, while the latter has become a quality third option. In Burba’s words, it has “developed into a plus changeup.”

An interesting aspect of Almonte’s development has been his path to Double-A. Originally drafted out of high school by the Los Angeles Angels, the 2012 17th-round pick was subsequently swapped to Chicago, and then, in November 2015, to Colorado. In each instance, he was traded for a big leaguer.

“The first time, it was for Gordon Beckham,” recalled Almonte, who gets high marks for his character and makeup. “I was like, ‘OK.’ The second time it was for Tommy Kahnle, and I felt like I must have been doing something right. I had a good year (in the White Sox organization) and opened some eyes up. Now I’m with the Rockies, and hopefully I’ll stay here.”

At the moment, “here” is Hartford. Assuming his shoulder holds up — neither he or his pitching coach sounded concerned — that venue should be changing soon. Almonte has a power arm and, by all accounts, he’s in the process of turning a corner. No longer a thrower, he’s well on his way to becoming a pitcher.

David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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5 years ago

That is an amazing underhanded dig at Gordon Beckham

5 years ago
Reply to  Nathan

Especially since at the time he was traded, Kahnle had just turned in 33 innings of sub-replacement pitching. Although Beckham was even worse.