Tonight’s Yankees lineup includes every right-handed hitter and every switch hitter available to Joe Girardi, and on Twitter, the YES Network’s Jack Curry pointed out why: White Sox starter Chris Sale has not allowed a hit to a left-handed batter all season. Sale’s made only four starts, so the sample size isn’t huge, but it’s not out of line with what Sale’s done in the past. Last year, lefties hit just .135 against him.
So that would seem to explain why Zoilo Almonte is in the lineup. It also makes clear why Almonte isn’t a great fit on the current Yankees roster.
What the Yankees could really use is a true right-handed hitter, and in the upper levels of the minor leagues, Almonte has rarely suggested that he’s a viable big league bat from that side of the plate. He’s been a switch hitter by trade, but a left-handed hitter in terms of production.
In Triple-A this year, Almonte was hitting .323/.363/.583 against righties, but just .139/.225/.167 against lefties. In Triple-A last season, he hit .281/.342/.328 from the right side, which was better than this season but still without his left-handed power. In Double-A in 2012, Almonte hit just .213/.254/.352 against lefties.
None of this is to say Almonte can’t be a big league player, only that his proven value comes from the left side, not the right side. And the Yankees have the left side covered.
Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury and Ichiro Suzuki are already in place as left-handed outfielder, and Kelly Johnson or Yangervis Solarte could play the outfield if necessary. Finding a left-handed hitter to play an outfield corner is not a problem, and unless the Yankees are going to use Almonte as a regular DH (in place of Alfonso Soriano) or play him regularly ahead of Ichiro (who’s been terrific), there just doesn’t seem to be much playing time up for grabs against right-handed pitchers.
But there could be regular at-bats available against lefties, either as an alternative to one of the left-handed outfielders or as a platoon DH. Guys like Adonis Garcia, Scott Sizemore and Zelous Wheeler might not be better overall players than Almonte, but they might be better fits on this current roster. Sizemore could play some infield against lefties if the team felt comfortable playing Solarte in the outfield. Garcia could play either outfield corner or DH. Wheeler’s played a little bit of everything down in Triple-A and hit pretty well.
Almonte can technically hit right-handed, but if that’s where his playing time is going to come, he might not be the best guy for the job.
Just a heads up, we kind of made a late decision to do a chat tomorrow. Should be plenty to talk about heading into the weekend, and we had to scratch plans for a chat on Monday when I had to go into the office for a training lecture. So let’s do a chat on Friday at noon. Hope to see you then.
Associated Press photo