The 2016 season was a disappointing one for Miguel Almonte, who began the year with Triple-A but he was transferred to Double-A Northwest Arkansas in August. As a starter with Triple-A Omaha, he started 12 games, finishing with a 5.55 ERA and 1.75 WHIP. Things didn't get better with the step down to Double-A, either, as he posted a 7.31 ERA and 1.75 WHIP in 16 innings pitched out of the bullpen. When he's on, his fastball and changeup are effective, but he has had recent issues with walks, which makes for a dangerous combination with the high batting average against him on balls in play, which was .341 in Triple-A and .399 after the transfer to Double-A. The Royals had previously viewed him as a top starting pitching prospect, but after 2016, they may be looking to shift him into a new role as a bullpen arm.
Almonte has been optioned to Triple-A Omaha, Joel Goldberg of Fox Sports Kansas City reports. Almonte was competing for a spot in the Royals' big league bullpen, but he'll now return to Triple-A Omaha, where he pitched 60 innings in 2016. At 23 years old, he still has time to keep developing. However, the Royals will be hoping the young right-hander can improve upon 5.55 ERA he posted last season.
Almonte was transferred to Double-A Northwest Arkansas on Monday, Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com reports. Almonte made nine appearances for the Royals in 2015, but he's spent the duration of 2016 at Triple-A Omaha, where he holds a 5.55 ERA and 1.75 WHIP across 60.0 innings. The right-hander will now return to Northwest Arkansas, the level at which he began the 2015 season and went 4-4 with a 4.03 ERA prior to advancing to Triple-A.
Almonte has made back-to-back appearances out of the bullpen after working predominantly as a starter at Triple-A Omaha during the first three months of the season. It is unclear if the Royals are simply limiting his workload in the minors with the hope of having him available as a possible replacement in the rotation during the second half, or if he's now being viewed as a piece for the big league bullpen in the near future. In his two relief appearances since the calendar flipped to July, Almonte has allowed one run on three hits over three innings. For the season, he's posted a 5.15 ERA along with a 51:36 K:BB in 50.2 innings, which ultimately may be the driving factor behind the organization's decision.
Almonte threw four innings of three run ball while surrendering four hits and four walks en route to a loss in his most recent start for Triple-A Omaha on Thursday. Thursday marked Almonte's third consecutive start where he was removed before the fifth inning, raising his ERA to 5.04 on the season. He also has thrown fewer than 90 pitches in five consecutive starts. Given his current performance, it seems unlikely Almonte will get a crack at the major league level this season.
Almonte was optioned to Triple-A Omaha on Thursday. With the Royals reinstating Dillon Gee from the paternity list, the club needed to clear a spot on the active roster, leaving Almonte as the likeliest candidate to be optioned. He'll head back down to Triple-A after his brief stint with the Royals, where he figures to continue working out of the rotation. In two starts at Triple-A this season, Almonte has allowed four earned runs over 5.0 total innings.