The 2021 season was grueling for the Atlanta Braves up until reinforcements arrived at the Trade Deadline. Injuries, particularly in the outfield, forced the team to patch together a lineup while trying to keep themselves within striking distance in the NL East. Abraham Almonte was little more than an afterthought when the team entered Spring Training in 2021, but he ended up playing a much bigger role than was expected before the team remade its outfield at the Trade Deadline.
Almonte signed a non-guaranteed Major League deal with the Braves in October 2020. He made his major league debut in 2013 with the Mariners. He has also had stints with San Diego, Cleveland, Kansas City and Arizona. Almonte spent the 2020 season with the Padres where he appeared in seven games and logged 13 plate appearances. San Diego removed him from their 40-man roster after the season and the Braves scooped him up a few days later.
Atlanta signed Almonte as outfield depth and he came into the spring with a chance to compete for a job in what was at the time a crowded outfield. Expectations were low coming in but as a switch hitter with decent speed, could be valuable as organizational depth. Almonte was not really expected to get much playing time for the Braves except in cases of emergency (which of course transpired), and having accrued just 1.4 fWAR in over 1,100 PAs coming into 2021, was not exactly a paragon of incredible depth stashed in the minors, either.
2021 Season results
Almonte appeared in 17 games during Spring Training but failed to make an impact, going 5-for-32 at the plate. He was outrighted off the 40-man roster in late March as the Braves pared down their roster in advance of the regular season. He got off to an outstanding start at Gwinnett, where he hit .403/.554/.613 with four doubles and three home runs in 19 games. He showed patience and a good eye, walking 21 times in 83 plate appearances for the Stripers. After Marcell Ozuna was placed on the injured list with two broken fingers, the Braves added Almonte back to the 40-man roster on May 31. He saw action in 28 games in June hitting just .230 but posting a .389 OBP and a 113 wRC+. His opportunities and production started to slip in July and he was relegated to a bench role once reinforcements arrived at the deadline. Almonte hung on the active roster until August 27 when he was designated for assignment to make room for Eddie Rosario who was coming off the injured list. Almonte was outrighted to Gwinnett a few days later but elected free agency.
Abraham Almonte 2021 Stats
All in all, Almonte’s hitting stats for the season were actually pretty decent — yanking a league-average bat out of your minors to cover for injuries is a pretty nice outcome. Unfortunately, Almonte racked up some terrible defensive metrics (-8 DRS, -3.3 UZR, -2 OAA) in under 350 outfield innings, which made his overall contribution of -0.1 fWAR in 175 PAs gel with preseason expectations, albeit in a disappointing way.
What went right? / What went wrong?
A lot of things went right for Almonte in that at the beginning of the season, as no one anticipated him appearing in 64 games or logging 175 PAs at the major league level. He showed good on-base skills, posting a .331 OBP despite hitting just .216. He plugged a hole when the Braves needed him, but his production suffered when pressed into duty as a regular, and his defensive aptitude (or lack thereof) impinged on his overall value.
Road to the Title
Almonte didn’t appear for the Braves in the postseason, and defense aside, didn’t necessarily have a big game-to-game impact either, as he finished his 2021 campaign with minimal WPA. He also had the dubious distinction of having his best game of the season by championship WPA (cWPA, like WPA but assessing the team’s likelihood of winning the championship instead of just one particular game) in a loss: on July 28, with the Braves at 50-52 and behind the Mets by five games, Almonte had his second-highest WPA game of the season, by going 2-for-4 with a double. With the Braves trailing by a run in the ninth, Almonte started the inning by doubling off Edwin Diaz. Later in the inning, Ehire Adrianza singled and Ron Washington sent Almonte home... where he was thrown out by Michael Conforto, and the Braves lost the game shortly thereafter.
So, hats off, Abraham Almonte — you added the most cWPA to the team in a loss, when you were thrown out at the plate as the tying run in the ninth inning. What a weird season.
On the flip side, it’s not like Almonte’s worst game by cWPA was particularly brutal either. A few days earlier (July 25), in a 2-1 loss to the Phillies, Almonte didn’t score the tying run from third with one out, as his flyout was to shallow. He went 0-for-3 in the game as the Braves got dominated by Aaron Nola. For a guy with 175 PAs on the year, it’s hard to tell whether it’s expected or unexpected that the highlights and lowlights would be so humdrum.
Outlook for 2022
Almonte is 32-years old and could rapidly be approaching the end of his opportunities. He showed enough in 2021 that he should be able to latch on with someone and go to Spring Training in 2022 in hopes of competing for a bench job. He could also potentially look overseas for opportunities. If this is the end, he has done a pretty good job of carving out a nine-year career with 440 career games under his belt.