NEW YORK—As Double-A pitching prospects Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos charted steady progress to the big leagues, a new Trenton teammate emerged from comparative obscurity to make a name for himself as a prospect.
Switch-hitting corner outfielder Zoilo Almonte earned a promotion from high Class A Tampa by batting .293/.368/.514 with 12 homers in 259 at-bats. He stole 14 bases in 18 attempts.
The 22-year-old Almonte signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2005 but had yet to surface above the Class A level.
"(Almonte) hit 10 homers in June in the Florida State League, and that hasn't happened with us in my memory," farm director Mark Newman said. "He has always been a good hitter, but now he is showing more power.
"He is getting stronger, maturing physically, and he has worked with our strength and conditioning people."
The 6-foot, 205-pound Almonte now stands as an emerging outfield prospect in the organization, along with low Class A Charleston's Ramon Flores. They stand out further in the context of this season because the Yankees expected more out of Melky Mesa (.675 OPS, four homers for Trenton), while Slade Heathcott's season ended with a shoulder injury.
Almonte slugged 13 home runs last season, providing a glimpse of power potential. This season, he batted .353 in his final 139 at-bats for Tampa to earn a bump to Double-A. "It was time for him to go," Newman said.
• Cuban defector Ronnier Mustelier didn't take long to acclimate to the American minors, going 20-for-65 (.308) with two homers in his first 15 games for Tampa. The 26-year-old plays second and third base as well as all three outfield spots. "He is a little older and hadn't played," Newman said, "but he can hit."
• Third baseman Brandon Laird batted .329 with 12 extra-base hits in 19 July games to break out of a season-long funk with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He made his big league debut on July 22.