Abraham Almonte: Sometimes all you need is a lineup spot

Ed Zurga

The Mariners outfielder wasn't a big prospect coming up, but he has something a lot of his peers don't -- a chance.

I had my buddy Nate draft for me in one of my leagues, because I had a date on draft night. (I know, I find it hard to believe too!) He drafted according to what he knew about me, which meant Brett Gardner, Matt Carpenter, Josh Fields, Josh Reddick.

But in a 12-team league, with six-man benches, and other roster needs to fill, Nate let one thing slide - he got to the last round of the draft without a shortstop on my roster. At that point, it wasn't what you'd call an inspired selection. Among players with any sort of regular gigs, the best Nate could find was Zack Cozart. Zack freaking Cozart. So, as much as I liked the rest of my roster, I entered the season with Zack Cozart, all .283 career OBP and four stolen bases of him, as my starting shortstop.

But like I said, I really liked the rest of my roster. Nate done good. (And, if any of my leaguemates read this, I could really use a trade for another shortstop.)

Anyway, the point is, sometimes you get stuck. Your roster is good, but for one reason or another, some position went unfilled. In a shallow league, who cares, you'll go get, I don't know, Michael Morse, or David Freese, or Jarrod Saltalamacchia. There are starters galore, and you can pick and choose.

But in deeper leagues, it can be more difficult. You have to look for the guys who get the stealth playing time.

The Mariners entered the season with a herd of quasi-outfielders. Dustin Ackley appears to have left second base behind. Logan Morrison and Corey Hart are on the team and, while neither is exactly the paragon of health or outfield ability, Justin Smoak's continued presence meant they have to stick with DH and/or the outfield. And holdover Michael Saunders was the team's presumptive center fielder, although that was mostly a "who the heck else can do it?" decision, as Saunders has been a middling-at-best fielder so far in his career.

To sum up, the team had available as outfielders a weak-armed converted infielder with an 82 OPS+ the last two years, two wannabe first basemen with injury concerns and stone gloves, and a center fielder who has a sub-.300 career OBP and really doesn't belong in center.

Oh, hey, Abraham Almonte.

Almonte, acquired for interim Yankees closer Shawn Kelley (good last name, dude) in February of last year, has started and led off in all seven of the Mariners games so far, and he's put up a .280/.379/.480 slash line (coming into Tuesday's game; I'm working two jobs and I need to go to bed, I can't wait for the end of a west-coast game to update a slash line). Despite that, and the fact that he's 25, Almonte is still owned in only five percent of Yahoo! leagues.

Now, that's not totally fair. Fueled by a .353 BABIP and the fact that it's only SIX DANG GAMES, Almonte is so far hitting better than his true level. But he is a 25-year-old switch-hitter with a good approach and some left-handed pop. Basically, he's likely to get on base at a reasonable rate, and ought to be able to slug a little against righties. On top of that, kid (and I say kid because I'm 30, and OH GOD I'M OLD) has some speed, stealing 20 or more bases every year in pro ball since 2008 outside of an injury-ravaged 2010.

But the main point is that Almonte can, you know, field. He might not be vintage Andruw Jones, but he's a good fielder in an outfield devoid of such things. Saunders will play center field some, and the Mariners pitchers will be worse off because of it (if nothing else, having Hart in right makes the team need an adept center fielder even more). But it's not like Saunders has been vintage Andruw Jones with the bat, so faced with the choice, the team might as well use the questionable hitter who can field.

And that's what it comes down to. If you focused on your infield and your pitching staff in your draft, if you thought you'd find outfielders eventually only to strike out, you can wait around and hope Gregory Polanco gets called up, or you can give up way too much in a trade for Mark Trumbo. But hey, one way or another, Almonte will get at bats, and that's worth a lot, especially if you had Nate draft guys like David Wright, Felix Hernandez, and Carlos Santana for you.

(Dude didn't get Yordano Ventura for me, though. What a jerk.)

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