Almonte Surging

There really isn’t another way to put it. Zoilo Almonte is on fire. He’s batting .351 in his past 10 games with six home-runs. He’s driven in 11 runs and continues to not just hit but hit for power. In his past 10 games, Almonte’s On-base plus slugging percentage is an absurd 1.167.

It didn’t start so hot for him though says Tampa Yankees’ Hitting Coach Justin Turner. A number of factors kept him from really peaking like he has now.

“He was kind of struggling early,” said Turner. “Not really putting good at-bats together. Then he got hurt and was down on the DL. Since he came off, he’s just been ridiculously hot.”

An owner of an ugly .182 batting average in May and a not much better .241 average in April, Almonte appeared ready to slump back into his 2008 form when his average dropped to .239 after hovering around .270 in 2009 and 2010. The left fielder hit for a little power but accounted for less than 10 homers in all but last year (when he had 13). He says not much has changed in the power department though, other than his physical condition.

He only played in 10 games in May and spent the majority of the month on the disabled list.

“Year ago, I could hit homers,” Almonte said through a translator. “But I had other problems like my knees and my back. But now with the three weeks getting over the back, I can hit them more than ever.”

Coach Turner agrees that the power surge is mostly due to his health but also points to a few mechanical issues they’ve ironed out through the first three months of the season.

“He puts himself in a bad spot sometimes,” said Turner. “He has to fly open to see pitches better. As long as he’s keeping himself in good position, his recognition is good.”

Almonte’s pitch recognition is a key to his current hot streak. Frankly, he just isn’t swinging at bad pitches. For the season, he’s struck out roughly twice as many times as he’s walked (40-18) but in his past 10 games? He’s k’d six times to go along with five walks.

“He’s getting good pitches to hit and he’s attacking them,” Turner added.

As for his injuries, Almonte says he’s hoping some extra work-out time will curtail his body’s habit for getting hurt.

“I’m working a lot on my hitting but also in the weight room,” he said. “Getting a better body. Trying to stay healthy all year.”

One of the most interesting stats of Almonte’s recent power binge has to do with his home park. He’s hit nine homers on the road but just one in Tampa. Turner shrugged and said it’s not saying much. He mentioned how dead their home field is in the gaps and how hard the wind comes in toward the plate.

Not all of that explains a 40 point drop in batting average, but on June 15th Almonte knocked a double and a homer in Tampa so maybe it’s all just coincidence. He’s played in 10 more road games this year so maybe it’s just a matter of chance. A larger sample size will reveal that answer.

Coach Turner added that at this point, with how Almonte is hitting, it’s pointless to talk about ballpark dimensions or statistical anomalies. It’s best to just let him hit.

“There’s not a park made in baseball that can keep him in when he’s hot,” Turner said. “It’s going to go out anywhere.”

This article was originally published here at pinstripesplus.com

Q+A With Yankees’ 4th Round Draft Pick, Matt Duran

Q: Being from New York, can you just tell me how it felt being selected by the Yankees?

A: Being from New York, it’s like the hometown team, so it’s a dream come true.

 

Q: Were you surprised when the Yankees selected you for the draft or had you talked?

A: I mean, we had talked a lot before the draft, I had been talking to scouts for a couple years, but I was still surprised cause I thought it wasn’t going to happen. I was very excited when I saw my name called.

 

Q: Can you describe yourself as a player?

A: Well I’m a third baseman. I hit for average, I’m going to hit for power. I’ve got a pretty good arm and I just gotta take a couple more ground balls and get better as an all-around player.

 

Q: Do you see yourself staying at third base throughout your professional career?

A: They haven’t told me anything otherwise, so I would assume, yeah. But I could play the other corner easily.

 

Q: Can you talk about just your hitting? What are your biggest strengths and weaknesses at the plate?

A: My biggest strengths are, I’m a great fastball hitter. I can adjust to the off-speed stuff and I can hit the ball to all fields. I’ve got some pop. I think an adjustment I’m going to have to make is from hitting high school pitchers to hitting professional pitchers. I’m gonna have to be a little more compact and quick.

 

Q: Who’s been your favorite team growing up?

A: Originally I was a Met fan but a couple years ago I started rooting for the Yankees.

 

Q: Is there anyone you can compare yourself to at the MLB level? Style-wise is there anyone you model yourself after?

A: Well I model my swing after A-Rod, to the cue actually. I studied him with my Dad and we’ve been looking at his swing for years now.

 

Q: How similar do you think your swing and his are now?

A: They’re pretty similar. You know, he has the great resume but it’s been working well for me lately so I’m going to stick with it.

 

Q: What’s been your best moment in baseball so far?

A: My best moment, well aside from Tuesday, would be playing in Yankee Stadium last summer and we played Mariano’s kid’s team and I hit a double off him. I always say I got a hit off Mariano Rivera, even though it was his son.

 

Q: Can you talk about your high school career [at New Rochelle H.S.] a little bit?

A: My high school career, I started off on the varsity as a freshman and I played four years. I started off at the bottom of the order my freshman year but I kept hitting and I moved up to fourth by the end of the year and I never looked back. The past two years have been really good.

 

Q: Talk about the coaching staff and teammates. How have they helped you as you improved a lot over the past couple years?

A: All my coaches would always stay after and help. I mean, extra B.P. and ground balls. And my teammates have always been supportive, especially this year.

 

Q: You have a commitment to Fordham University. What impressions have you gotten from the school?

A: Well it’s a great program and it’s a great school as you know, it has great academics. They have a competitive team and it was definitely a good school to commit to. It’s close to home.

 

Q: How much is Fordham going to come into play when it comes to signing? Is that going to be a quick process? What does it look like for this summer?

A: That’s a good question. I have no idea what it’s looking like. I haven’t talked about it with them or anybody yet. I’m still trying to let the glamour wear off from Tuesday cause it’s been a crazy couple days but I’m excited to be a Yankee right now.

 

Q: How does your family feel about this whole thing?

A: They’re excited. My Dad’s been training me since I was like seven. This is all he’s been talking about for years and it finally came true.

This article was originally published here at pinstripesplus.com