In the coming weeks leading up to Opening Day, I will be writing recaps of the moves the Braves have made through this overhaul of the organization in chronological order.
The first roster move made by the Braves this offseason, the signing of Yankees farmhand Zoilo Almonte, was overlooked at the time. Signed on November 10th to the 40-Man Roster, this was the first of an abundance of moves made by John Hart this offseason. At the time, few realized this was a transaction with potential 25-Man Roster implications for Atlanta. With Justin Upton and Evan Gattis traded elsewhere, the Braves are now likely to find themselves in a platoon situation in left field. Other newly acquired players competing with Almonte for a LF spot include Eric Young Jr. and Jonny Gomes. Almonte has struggled in his 149 career at bats with the Bronx Bombers, yielding a .211 career batting average. However, last year in 454 plate apperances in AAA he hit for a .261 average, 18 home runs and 69 RBIs. In a Braves lineup that will struggle to find offense, if Almonte can prove in Spring that he can offer the lineup some pop, he could easily find himself in a platoon left field/backup outfielder role. Almonte proved his versatility last year in Scranton, playing all three outfield positions. Almonte is also a switch hitter. If Melvin Upton Jr. finds himself struggling at the plate again, Almonte is one of the few internal options the Braves have to plug in at CF. Ideally, at the Major League level Almonte would be in a platoon with Jonny Gomes in which Gomes would start against southpaws and Almonte against righties. However, Eric Young’s speed, ability to play second base and MLB experience may pose a threat to Almonte’s chances, especially with Atlanta’s ongoing lack of a true leadoff hitter. My speculation is that a big part of why Almonte was signed by Atlanta is that they brought in Gordon Blakeley to serve as a special assistant to John Hart. Blakely was a long time scout for the Yankees and clearly sees something special in Almonte. Blakeley was likely instrumental in the Manny Banuelos trade, as well. Almonte will be one of many players to keep an eye on this spring in hopes of earning a roster spot. He may end up proving to only be a AAAA player, but worst comes to worst, Zoilo offers quality organizational depth for Atlanta.