Anyone who saw Zoilo Almonte bounce his first Major League hit off of the third base bag, might think the outfielder from Santo Domingo of the Dominican Republic adds a singles hitter to the New York Yankees arsenal. But a look at his minor league career suggests he has much more to offer.
In 645 total minor league hits, Almonte has produced 128 doubles, 18 triples and 76 home runs. That means over one-third of his hits have gone for extra bases. The 645 hits also came in only 640 games, which shows consistency.
At Scranton Wilkes Barre this season, he batted .297 with six home runs and 36 RBI. Of his 77 hits, 19 went for extra bases. And he displayed a good batting eye, as well, adding 30 walks in 68 games.
Almonte also runs the bases well. Although he didn’t run often, he had four steals in five attempts. It remains to be seen if he can maintain that average in New York, but the Yankees certainly welcome a base stealing supplement to Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki. At the minimum, manager Joe Girardi can insert him as a pinch runner.
Girardi inserted Almonte as a pinch hitter for Vernon Wells to give him an opportunity to break the ice with his first big league hit. Although the game was not on the line, the move could pay dividends if he is ever needed in a close game.
“You try and get it out of the way,” Girardi said, “because sometimes you get that first one out of the way, if you’re called upon to play, it’s a lot easier.”
Almonte also gives the Yankees another alternative in center field until Curtis Granderson is back on track. In late inning defensive situations, Almonte, Gardner and Suzuki could, in effect, allow them to play three centerfield quality outfielders at the same time, although Suzuki’s best days in terms of range are certainly behind him.
Even though Girardi pinch hit Almonte for Vernon Wells, he remained confident that we will see a hot bat from Wells again.
“We believe in Vern,” Girardi said. “Will I give him a day off here and there? Yeah, but I’ve done that all year long. But we still believe that he can get it done.”