Allen Lessels' On Baseball: Portland's Michael Almanzar is the Comeback Kid
MANCHESTER -- MICHAEL ALMANZAR has cooled off a bit.
No shock there. The lanky, young third baseman was on fire to start the season, his first in Double-A as he continued to rebuild the promising resume that had him signed for big money — the Red Sox inked him to a $1.5 million signing bonus in July of 2007 — out of the Dominican Republic at the age of 16.
“He’s been terrific,” said Portland manager Kevin Boles. “The maturity level is his biggest thing. He’s learning his routines. He’s always been very athletic and he’s always been a big strong kid and he’s always played a quality third base and also pretty well at first base. What we’re seeing now is his work habits and routine. He does a lot of reps at game speed and I think that’s really helped him as far as carrying it over into games.”
Boles knows Almanzar.
He managed him in Single-A Greenville in 2008 and 2009 at ages 17 and 18. Almanzar spent parts of the each season in Greenville, playing at a level higher than most his age, after getting off to a fast start in the rookie Gulf Coast League.
He dealt OK with things at Greenville, but had his struggles with his offense at times in the minors until last year.
“He was always playing at a level higher than his age suggested he should play at, but he’s always handled it,” Boles said. “Now, though, I think he’s comfortable with who he is and understands what type of player he can be and he will be. I think that’s important. You see a lot of trust in himself and a lot of confidence and I think that’s going to continue to grow.”
Monster months like Almanzar, who’s 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, put together to start his Double-A career certainly help the confidence level.
He had two hits in four straight games to open the season and reached base safely in his first nine games. He had two home runs in the fourth game of the year and had five through the first 20.
“I was seeing the ball well, I’m still seeing the ball well,” Almanzar said with a smile. “See the ball. Hit the ball.”
His numbers have dropped off some and he was still at a team-leading five home runs going into Wednesday night’s game against the Fisher Cats at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium.
But he was working on his second six-game hitting streak of the season before he went hitless in four at-bats in Portland’s 3-0 loss to the Fisher Cats on Tuesday night.
He likes the way things are going so far at a new level.
“It’s been going very good,” Almanzar said. “I’m working hard every day. Keep working every day.”
Boles and hitting coach Rich Gedman, who worked with Almanzar in Single-A Salem last year, like his approach.
“Offensively and defensively he works hard,” said Gedman, the former All-Star catcher for the Red Sox. “I’ve only seen him for the last couple of years and he goes about his business the right way. He’s professional about his work and plays the game the right way and plays the game hard. He’s got good size and a good arm and plays defense and plays offense. He’s got a little pop. He can hit for average. He’s a good player.”
Almanzar hit an even .300 last year in Salem in the Carolina League and had 12 home runs and 54 runs batted in 124 games and was named Comeback Player of the Year by the web site soxprospects.com.
He’s closed up his batting stance a bit from his early days and is showing more consistency with his strike zone management, Boles said.
And he’s only 22.
“He’s still a young kid and there’s a lot of upside,” Boles said. “It’s a great frame to build off and I believe he’s going to get bigger and stronger and he’s very athletic. He’s an interesting player. There’s no doubt about it. If he was coming out of the draft this year where would he go? You’ve got to keep that in mind. He’s in Double-A right now. That’s pretty impressive.”