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2022 Dodgers in review: Yency Almonte

Yency Almonte is a new pitcher after a career-best season with the Dodgers.

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MLB: Colorado Rockies at Los Angeles Dodgers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Don’t let his 0-0 record fool you — Yency Almonte had a pretty great year with the Dodgers. Despite being sidelined by injuries, Almonte put up excellent numbers and delivered when it was necessary. He’s made his presence in L.A. known, and now, the Dodgers are looking forward to what comes next.

This season marked Almonte’s first with the Dodgers and the best of his career. He was signed to the team’s minor league system in March and received a non-roster invite to spring training camp after a difficult fourth season with the Colorado Rockies, where he posted a 7.55 ERA in 48 games.

The reliever pitched almost 15 innings in Triple-A Oklahoma City to start the season, then dazzled in the Dodgers’ bullpen. By June, Almonte was pitching 71 percent better than the league average for relievers, according to Nick Groke and Fabian Ardaya at The Athletic.

“He’s an invaluable kind of Swiss army knife guy that every bullpen needs,” Dodgers pitching coach Mark Prior said to Groke and Ardaya to Groke and Ar.

Almonte’s hot streak held throughout the season. He gave up just two home runs in his 35.1 innings, a welcome decline from his 2021 home run rate of 1.7 per nine innings, and only four hits on the season. When he missed 46 games late in the season with right elbow tightness — a much longer rehab than initially anticipated — he jumped right back into the ’pen with no signs of slowing down.

How did the Dodgers do it? Their rehab program started by improving the horizontal movement of Almonte’s slider, which he had already been tweaking in Colorado (for just how much movement, see below), and continued with eliminating his four-seam fastball. A harder-thrown, two-seam sinker completed his updates for 2022.

Almonte also credited Dodgers catchers Will Smith and Austin Barnes with helping him improve: The catchers always set up down the middle of the plate, allowing Almonte to more easily change attack locations, targets, and pitch mix to each batter.

There’s plenty of runway left for Almonte, and he’ll be back in 2023 for more fireworks.

2022 particulars

Age: 28

Stats: 0-0, 1.02 ERA, 3.17 FIP, 0.79 WHIP, 33 K, 35.1 innings, 1.4 bWAR, 0.5 fWAR

Salary: $1.5 million, pro-rated for his time in the majors

Game of the year

On September 29, Almonte returned from a long IL stint to pitch against the top of the San Diego Padres’ lineup in the eighth inning. He struck out Manny Machado and drew two groundouts, lowering his ERA to 1.11 at the time.

Roster status

Almonte has three years, 143 days of major league service time, and is eligible for salary arbitration this winter. MLB Trade Rumors projects him to make $1 million in that process.