The Mariners entered the season with rookie Abraham Almonte as their starting center-fielder. 27 games and a .540 OPS later, they decided that didn’t work and now have they have sent the 25 year old speedster, along with minor league reliever Stephen Kohlscheen to the Padres for a new center-fielder, veteran Chris Denorfia.
Almonte, who entered the season as Seattle’s 17th best prospect, per MLB.com, was acquired from the Yankees before the 2013 season in exchange for reliever Shawn Kelley. He wasn’t much of a prospect before that year, but then he broke out in Triple-A Tacoma, showing both patience and power with his .403 OBP and .493 slugging percentage over 94 games. That earned him a big league promotion at the end of August and he was decent in 25 games, hitting .264/.313/.413 with a pair of home runs.
Almonte struggled to start 2014, though, and though Seattle sent him down in early May, he has been unable to find his 2013 stroke. Through 72 games for Tacoma he has hit just .272/.333/.390.
If Kohlscheen joins the Padres bullpen this season or next, it will be a most unlikely ascent. The 25 year old right-hander was a 45th round pick in 2010. Of the 14 college or junior college players drafted in that round, he is one of just three still playing, affiliated baseball, and the only one playing above A ball.
The 6’6, 235 lb right-hander has enjoyed an outstanding season in the Seattle system, pitching to a 2.70 ERA and a 1.112 WHIP with strong peripherals – 8.7 SO/9, 1.6 BB/9 – over 56.2 innings between double and Triple-A.
It remains to be seen whether Denorfia will start in center or right for the Mariners, or whether he will be fourth outfielder. The 33 year old veteran has struggled to a .612 OPS this season, but that’s actually a better mark than the .600 OPS posted by incumbent center-fielder James Jones and just slightly below right-fielder Corey Hart‘s .615 OPS.