Energetic Almonte putting on show in Seattle
Giving Mariners jolt down stretch, rookie lets exciting style of play do talking
SEATTLE -- Abraham Almonte isn't much of a talker, and often it seems like the "God bless you" he ends every interview with is his longest response of the day. But what the Mariners rookie callup refuses to say with his mouth is raucously exclaimed with his play on the field.
It's been a weird year in baseball. A year in which the ultimate game of skill and precision has been taken over by the reckless bull-in-a-china-shop style of players like Yasiel Puig and Mike Trout, who play the game as if they're attempting to cram the two-sport career of Bo Jackson into a single season.
While Almonte cannot claim the success (or notoriety) of the aforementioned players, the Mariners may have found their own ball of energy in the soft-spoken Dominican switch-hitter.
"I like the energy he brings, I like the dynamic with his speed and his ability to bunt and do some things up there," manager Eric Wedge said.
Standing at just 5-foot-9, Almonte is Seattle's most diminutive position player; built at 205 pounds, he is among its stockiest. Before the rookie was called up from Triple-A Tacoma, general manager Jack Zduriencik allowed that Almonte may be the fastest player on the Mariners and believes that he possesses the outfield's strongest arm. Wedge swears that the 24-year-old is already the team's best bunter, and he has given him ample opportunity to prove it.
The result is that Almonte is one of the few players on the roster who force you to watch, knowing that just about anything could happen. In Double-A, he hit for the cycle. In Triple-A, Almonte had a six-hit game.
"He can do it all," rookie shortstop Brad Miller said. "He plays hard, he runs. I mean, he's pretty electric with his running, but I've seen him hit for the cycle this year, I've seen him hit bombs, I've seen him bunt and do a little bit of everything. He really has it all."
It's that style that has caused Almonte to insert himself into conversation ever since he joined the Major League club. His .265 batting average over 11 games isn't gaudy, nor is his .766 OPS. Almonte draws some walks, but he isn't exceptional in that regard, either.
But when Almonte got a hit in his first five Major League games with a plate appearance, it raised a few eyebrows. He raised a few more when his first career home run drove in two runs to give the Mariners a late, albeit temporary, lead over the visiting Astros.
"I knew that I kept my hands in front. I got a little jammed, but I kept my hands in front enough to hit it out of the park," Almonte explained. "When I hit it, I wasn't really sure [if it would go out]."
Through Almonte's first 11 games, he has a hit or a run in nine of them. In one of the others, he didn't receive a plate appearance. Additionally, Almonte has two of the team's four sacrifice bunts since Aug. 20.
In his short period in the Majors, Almonte has already started games at every outfield position and been used as a pinch-runner. Seattle's offense has ground to a halt in September, yet the rookie outfielder has been plated seven times already.
The truth is, Almonte may never be more than a fourth outfielder for the Mariners. It's hard to say whether or not the organization considers him a member of the group of young, core players in which it is trusting its future.
But right now, the club is merely playing out the rest of September, long out of the playoff race and merely hoping to play spoiler for the remaining contenders on its schedule. As such, Almonte has an amazing skill, one that makes him an indispensible talent for this club right now.
For a team that has been swept at home three times in the past two and half weeks, Almonte gives fans a reason to watch.
Jacob Thorpe is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.