Curtis Granderson Injury: It's Time for Zoilo Almonte to Shine

Kenny DeJohn@@kennydejohnAnalyst IIIFebruary 24, 2013

March 2, 2012; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Yankees right fielder Zoilo Almonte (83) hits a RBI double in the fourth inning during spring training against the South Florida Bulls at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

As most of you know, Curtis Granderson will be sidelined for "approximately" 10 weeks with a broken right forearm after being drilled with a pitch by J.A. Happ in Sunday's spring training game against the Toronto Blue Jays (via CBS New York).

The New York Yankees have several options that could potentially take over in left field while Granderson is recovering. Brett Gardner will most certainly be playing center field now, so left field is wide open.

Juan Rivera, Matt Diaz and Melky Mesa could all see time as the starting left fielder, but there's one player that really stands out above the rest for me. His name is Zoilo Almonte.

Many fans remember Almonte bursting on to the scene during last season's spring training. He hit .286/.286/.429 with four RBI and two doubles in 14 at-bats. While not stellar numbers, they're very impressive for somebody who had yet to play a full season in Double-A.

He did end up completing a full season with Double-A Trenton following spring training, and he was very impressive.

Almonte posted the best numbers of his career in a league he had yet to experience to its fullest, putting together a line of .277/.322/.487 with 21 home runs, 70 RBI, 23 doubles, 15 stolen bases and 64 runs scored in 106 games.

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He was pretty good defensively as well. In 88 games in right field, Almonte recorded 10 outfield assists. He did make 11 errors, but his strong arm certainly made up for that.

He's played 322 games in his career in right field but also 122 games in left field and 81 in center field. Success has come for him in left field, as he has recorded seven outfield assists while committing just five errors.

There are veterans on the Yankees roster that could easily be handed the job if they earn it in spring training, but I would be thrilled to see Almonte in the Opening Day lineup.

Being one of the most underrated prospects in the Yankees system, Almonte isn't always given the credit he's due. Even though he's never played above Double-A, he's flashed the skill set necessary to have success in the bigs.

The Yankees have been infamous for playing veterans over young players for the better part of the past two decades. Rarely do youngsters break through (see: Cano, Robinson for the most recent example), and giving Almonte a shot would be the smart move by Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman.

How else will the team know if Almonte can handle the bigs if he's never given a shot?

Should he succeed, he can be kept on as a fourth outfielder when Granderson returns. If the Yankees want him to continue getting regular at-bats, they can send him back down to Triple-A.

Worst-case scenario, Almonte struggles and the Yankees can send him back down to the minors to hone his skills. It's not like there aren't other options if he fails.

Out of spring training, I'd love to see Almonte manning left field in Yankee Stadium. He's not a veteran with tons of major league experience, nor is he a guy that many people know about, but that doesn't necessarily mean he's the wrong man for the job.

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