The Angels selected Almeida in the Minor League phase of last winter’s Rule 5 Draft.The diminutive lefty reliever was recently promoted to Double-A Mobile after terrorizing California League hitters with 19 strikeouts in his first 12 innings this season. Missing bats is nothing new for Almeida, who has struck out more than 10 batters-per-nine innings across his seven minor league seasons.
What was different about Almeida’s Cal League tour was his low walk total (3.0 BB/9), as he has struggled to throw strikes throughout his career. In my April viewing, the fastball was in the 95-to-97 mph range, missing bats with plus running life. I project a future 55 overall fastball, as a max-effort delivery detracts from the in-zone command. Almeida struggled to locate his heater to the arm side, often flying open and sailing pitches up and out of the zone. Almeida’s slider is a swing-and-miss pitch; he has a feel to start it on the hip of a left-handed hitter and sweep it back over the plate, making him the rare pitcher who commands an off-speed pitch better than his fastball. He showed hard breakers with ease, sitting in the 81-to-84 mph range and able to use it to both lefties and righties.
Despite the quality of his two-pitch mix and gaudy High-A stats, Almeida’s ability to consistently throw strikes will prevent him from reaching his ceiling as a high- leverage reliever. I like his chances to slot as a MLB LOOGY who can devastate lefties with his sharp slider. To get righties out at the highest level, he’ll need to locate his fastball better, especially to the arm side and away from damage, but I am bearish given the extreme effort in his delivery.