Almonte States Case For Spot On Brewers Roster
Seemingly coming out of nowhere, utility man Erick Almonte is closer to making the Milwaukee Brewers roster than many would believe.
Perhaps he’s been overlooked because of his age. Almonte is already 33 years old and wasn’t even considered among the top 20 players in the Brewers’ farm system in the Maple Street Press 2011 Brewers Annual.
But he’s been given every chance by manager Ron Roenicke and the new staff in Milwaukee during spring training. Almonte currently leads the team with 58 at bats this February and March.
All Almonte has done with his chances is hit .414/.433/.672 with a team-leading 24 hits and 12 RBI (tied for the team lead).
It’s not as if Almonte’s performance this spring, or any player’s for that matter, should be the sole consideration for a spot on an MLB roster. Almonte does, however, have a pattern of improving offensive performance that makes him a decent candidate to win job with the Brewers.
He’s spent the past two seasons in Triple-A Nashville primarily as a first baseman hitting .291/.365/.360 in 277 plate appearances in 2009 and followed that up by hitting .320/.377/.415 in 355 plate appearances in 2010.
Perhaps you’ve heard of Almonte’s back-story. He worked his way up the professional baseball ladder in the Yankees organization as a shortstop while becoming an injury replacement to Derek Jeter for about a month in 2003.
His cup of tea in the majors could be described as pedestrian, and he eventually fell out of favor in New York. He’s bounced around the minor leagues since then, changed his body, became more of a hitter, and plays primarily first base, although he has experience at almost every position on the field.
Being a utility man is working in Almonte’s favor. He can be a corner infielder, corner outfielder and even play middle infield in a pinch.
His primary competition for a roster spot is seen as Luis Cruz, who is a better defensive option than Almonte at short, second and third, though not quite the offensive threat his counterpart is. And the Brewers already have a decent infield glove coming off the bench in Craig Counsell.
Almonte also has competition from several other players vying for a spot on the Brewers bench including outfielders Chris Dickerson, Jeremy Reed, Brandon Boggs and fellow utility man Mark Kotsay.
Working in Almonte’s favor, on the other hand, is that he bats right handed – the opposite of all the aforementioned options aside from Boggs, who’s a switch hitter. When the Brewers are looking for a right-handed pinch hitter, Almonte would be one of the few options.
With Mat Gamel being optioned to Nashville to learn how to play first base, the Brewers aren’t going to want to both him and Almonte splitting time at the same position, which is just another reason Almonte looks like an appropriate option to stick with the major league club.
One roadblock that Almonte will have to overcome is that he’s not currently on the Brewers’ 40-man active roster. Neither is Reed for that matter. If either are to make the 25-man roster coming out of spring training, room will have to be made.
But with every passing day, Almonte’s odds are improving.