Zoilo Almonte Makes An Impression In Yankees Camp





TAMPA—Five-tool center fielder Mason Williams wasn't the only outfield prospect on the Yankees' radar this spring.

Corner outfielder Zoilo Almonte, 22, impressed the Yankees in the early part of spring training with his bat, speed and live arm.

"Who has been better than him?" manager Joe Girardi asked rhetorically after a week of games.

A 6-foot, 205-pound switch-hitter from the Dominican Republic, Almonte signed as a raw 16-year-old in 2005. While a certain degree of rawness remains, Almonte is making strides toward being a major leaguer.

In 70 games with high Class A Tampa last season, Almonte belted 12 homers, drove in 54 runs and batted .293/.368/.514. That earned him a promotion to Double-A Trenton, where he batted .251/.309/.377 with three homers in 175 at-bats.

"I like him," said Girardi, who included Almonte in the first round of cuts. "He takes the ball the other way hitting lefthanded, and he's young and just starting to (apply his tools in games). He's an above-average outfielder who has a lot of tools."

In 10 big league spring training games, Almonte batted went 4-for-12 (.333) and drove in four runs.

Ticketed to return to Trenton, Almonte also took advantage of advice from an iconic switch-hitting outfielder while he was in major league camp.

"His lefthanded swing is ahead of the righthanded swing, and he had a nice opportunity to talk to Bernie Williams about it," Girardi said. "Bernie told him it was harder for him to hit righthanded, that it's a work in progress."

The Yankees liked Almonte enough to add him to the 40-man roster in the offseason, and he'll have to improve his pitch selection this season—just as he did last year—to earn a promotion to Triple-A.

YANKEE DOODLES

• Lefthander Manny Banuelos worked five innings in big league camp prior to joining the Triple-A club. He allowed six hits and four walks while striking out four, though like last year his overall performance was inconsistent.

• Second baseman David Adams went 1-for-10 in big league camp, but more significantly he was healthy enough to earn an assignment to Trenton, where he last played in 2010. He has battled foot injuries that last two years.