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2023 Dodgers in review: Yency Almonte

Cincinnati Reds v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

If you want an example of the volatility of relief work, look no further than Yency Almonte, whose second season in Los Angeles was much worse than his first.

After shining as a non-roster invitee in 2022, Almonte had a minuscule 1.02 ERA in the majors, at the time the second-lowest ERA in a season by any Dodgers pitcher with at least 30 innings. In 2023, Almonte’s ERA was 5.06.

A closer look at the underlying stats show that the actual difference between the two seasons wasn’t so dramatic, but relievers rarely pitch enough innings to accrue the benefit of the doubt.

Yency Almonte with the Dodgers

Year IP BB rate K rate HR rate ERA xERA FIP WHIP
Year IP BB rate K rate HR rate ERA xERA FIP WHIP
2022 35⅓ 7.4% 24.4% 1.5% 1.02 3.01 3.17 0.792
2023 48 11.5% 23.6% 2.9% 5.06 4.27 4.59 1.396
Sources: Baseball Reference & FanGraphs

The sweeper was Almonte’s best pitch again in 2023, throwing it half the time. He finished off 43 of his 49 strikeouts with the sweeper, a pitch on which he had a 47.9-percent whiff rate.

By run value, Almonte’s sweeper prevented four more runs than average, putting him in the upper 15 percent of the majors. But his sinker (-3 run value) and changeup (-4) were relatively tattooed, the latter remarkably so considering he only threw his changeup only 6.5 percent of the time.

Almonte’s 2023 was also a tale in two parts, though his long climb back into higher-leverage outings was interrupted by an injury that cut short his trying season. His best success came after essentially ditching the changeup.

After allowing three and four runs in consecutive outings in May, Almonte had a 9.00 ERA in his first 19 appearances, giving up 18 runs in his 18 innings, with nearly as many walks (10) as strikeouts (13).

That got Almonte bumped down to more lower-leverage outings for a while, but he eventually found his form.

Almonte allowed a two-run home run to Jake Burger on June 14, though that in itself wasn’t too noteworthy. After all, Burger hit five home runs in nine games against the Dodgers in 2023, first with the White Sox then later with the Marlins after the trade deadline.

But for Almonte, he went a month and a half before allowing his next earned run. Even with a couple of three-run outings after the All-Star break, Almonte was on the upswing. Since those first 19 appearances, he had a 2.70 ERA in 30 innings over 30 games, with 36 strikeouts against 14 walks.

Almonte threw only 11 changeups during this stretch, just 2.3 percent of his total.

By then he pitched himself back into more high-leverage games, but it all came crashing down on August 11. Staked to a 6-1 lead, Almonte pitched a scoreless eighth inning against the Rockies, and got the first two outs in the ninth inning as well, striking out three in total. But he caught his spikes on the mound, and convinced manager Dave Roberts and trainer Nate Lucero to remain in the game. That reprieve only lasted two more pitches, as Almonte sprained his right knee, landing on the injured list the next day.

“I thought I could get through it, but obviously I couldn’t,” Almonte said after the game. “I knew in that situation, there’s already two outs in the top of the ninth, where I don’t want to have somebody else get up. I’d rather just fight through it and get out of the inning. But obviously, that didn’t happen.”

It was a slow recovery process for Almonte, who did not pitch again in the majors during the season. His only minor league rehab appearance came on September 30 for Oklahoma City in the Triple-A championship game in Las Vegas. Almonte opened that game, and allowed a single and walk but otherwise struck out two in a scoreless inning.

Special delivery

Almonte was one of seven Dodgers during the 2023 season to welcome a child into the world. He was on paternity leave over the final three days before the All-Star break, as his wife Tori gave birth to their first kid, a son named Kyson Jrue.

2023 particulars

Age: 29

Stats: 5.06 ERA, 4.27 xERA, 4.59 FIP, 48 IP, 24 BB, 49 K

Salary: $1.5 million

Game of the year

On May 23 in Atlanta — otherwise remembered as Bobby Miller’s successful major league debut — and less than a week into his resurgent stretch, Almonte pitched a perfect sixth inning against the Braves, striking out all three batters he faced, finishing all three swinging strikeouts with a sweeper.

Almonte had a 29.5-percent strikeout rate over his final 30 appearances, compared to just 15.1 percent through his first 19 games.

Roster status

With four years, 143 days of service time, Almonte is eligible for salary arbitration for the second time. The folks at MLB Trade Rumors project a $1.9 million salary in 2024 for Almonte, which would be a 26.7-percent increase over this year.

Almonte is out of minor league options, having used them from 2017-19.