Abraham Almonte played in just 67 games for the Indians last season due to an 80-game PED suspension that rendered him ineligible for the playoffs. He has 222 career minor league steals, so there is some hope that he can steal more bases going forward if given more playing time, which is the big question. Almonte has never hit better than .265 in his four-year MLB career, and hasn't shown much patience either, walking just eight times last season while striking out 42 times. The Indians considered Almonte a starting outfielder prior to news of his suspension last offseason, but it's unclear how much his time off will affect that. While the switch-hitting Almonte could be part of a platoon in center field in 2017, he would be interesting only in deeper mixed and AL-only leagues given his lack of power.
Almonte went 1-for-2 with a walk and scored a run in Sunday's Cactus League game against San Diego. Almonte started in left field and continued rolling through early March. Over his last five spring games, Almonte is 5-for-13 with four walks, three RBI, two runs and a pair of stolen bases. With Michael Brantley (shoulder) uncertain for Opening Day, the 27-year-old could offer extra value in the season's first month, as he seems to be the Tribe's best replacement.
Almonte will begin the 2017 season in a center-field platoon with Tyler Naquin, Paul Hoynes of Cleveland.com reports. The Indians' outfield situation is far from ideal and Almonte could certainly win a full-time role if he performs well. Veteran Austin Jackson recently signed a minor-league deal, illustrating the team's concern about their outfield depth, but Jackson is not expected to be a threat to Almonte when camp opens. Last year, the switch-hitting Almonte returned from a PED suspension to hit a less-than-impressive .264/.294/.401 in 182 at-bats over 67 games. His plate discipline was atrocious, as he managed a 4.1 percent walk rate while striking out in more than 20 percent of his at-bats. On the flip side, the 27-year-old has arguably the best glove among the team's outfielders, and Naquin has plenty of his own faults that could open the door for Almonte.
Almonte is out of the lineup Saturday against the Twins, MLB.com's Jordan Bastian reports. The Indians have five or six similarly skilled outfielders on hand, so Almonte won't be able to carve out a true everyday role down the stretch. However, he has been playing over 50 percent of the time lately, and the returns have been as good as his owners could hope for. He is slashing .289/.298/.489 with one triple, seven doubles and one steal in his last 47 plate appearances. Coco Crisp will start in left field and hit eighth Saturday.
Almonte is out of the lineup Monday against the Astros. Almonte has started three in a row for The Tribe, but will take a seat Monday in favor of Coco Crisp in left field. The switch-hitting Almonte remains a candidate to see regular playing time in the Cleveland outfield in the season's final month.
Almonte is out of the lineup Thursday against the Rangers. Following a stretch of six straight starts, Almonte will now head to the bench for a second consecutive contest. With the left-handed Cole Hamels set to oppose the Cleveland lineup, Brandon Guyer will make another start in left field in his place and bat seventh.