After scuffling through his first start of the season, in which he managed to record just one out and surrender five runs before exiting the game, Almonte has strung together three solid starts, combining for 15.1 IP in which he’s allowed just two earned runs on eight hits, though also allowing eight walks. Over that same span, Almonte has racked up 21 strikeouts, primarily off the strength of a plus changeup that can play up to double-plus when he’s spotting his fastball and maximizing deception off the paired offerings.
How good has that changeup been thus far in 2016? Left-handed hitters are slashing a paltry .125/.256/.156 off the sturdy righty while receiving a steady diet of the off-speed offering along with a mid-90s fastball that has kissed 97-to-98 mph at times, and the fastball could likely play there with regularity in shorter stints. The depth of his curveball has improved, but the pitch still remains his third most effective offering, and it plays best as a chase pitch when ahead in the count, drawing empty swings or soft contact out of the zone.
The arm action is long on the back side, and it’s not uncommon for Almonte to miss his release points or preferred arm slot, resulting in bouts of wildness and a little too frequently soft stuff out over the heart of the plate. Thus far Triple-A bats have not been particularly successful at making him pay for those mistakes, but there is a much smaller margin for error with major-league hitters.
The frequency with which these hiccups come is enough to cast Almonte as a question mark when it comes to reaching his potential as a solid mid-rotation arm, and an argument can be made his production would be more valuable as potential shutdown late-inning reliever than as a back-end starter who struggles to regularly maintain his effectiveness while turning over lineups. – Nick J. Faleris