Class A Lexington's Miguel Almonte didn't have a win yet this season coming into Wednesday's start. He made sure the first one wasn't a cheap one.
The Legends right-hander allowed just one hit and three walks while striking out nine over six scoreless innings to lead Lexington to a 3-1 win over Delmarva.
It was a start that set career highs in innings and strikeouts for the 20-year-old.
"He had an excellent fastball and plus changeup," said Lexington pitching coach Jerry Nyman. "He was able to get more pitches over the plate, very aggressive in the early innings. The second time through the lineup he had hitters in between, guarding against the changeup while getting the fastball down.
"He was out in front of the count all night, once he got rolling he was impressive."
Almonte (1-3) came into Wednesday's start sporting a 5.50 ERA and lowered it to 4.13 after twirling the gem. He has 22 strikeouts and eight walks in 24 innings.
The Dominican Republic native is in just his second season in American pro ball and his first full season after the Royals aggressively promoted him from the Rookie-level Arizona League, where he spent the second half of last year after he came over from the Dominican Summer League.
The early returns in the AZL were positive. He went 2-1 with a 2.33 ERA, fanning 28 and walking five in 27 innings. He also went 6-1 in the DSL with a 1.44 ERA. He struck out 46 while walking eight in 50 frames.
Nymer said the 6-foot-2, 180-pound righty still has a lot of untapped potential in his arm.
"He has a tremendously live arm. He generates a lot of velocity without very much effort. He's able to stay under control and he has that plus changeup. He's a breaking ball away from taking a trip from us to higher [levels]," he noted. "He's as big as Pedro Martinez, and if he can continue to get stronger, he's gonna throw in the mid-90s with a plus change and solid to average breaking ball. So he's probably a No. 2 or 3 starter in the big leagues."
Almonte has also shown a good ability to adapt to life in America and play against other professionals, especially given his scant exposure to both, Nymer added.
"He has great maturity for a young kid. His English has improved -- I can't put a percent on it -- but you can carry on a small conversation in English with him now. When he came to Spring Training, he didn't know very much," he said. "He's extremely intelligent, has exactly the kind of makeup you look for in a pro pitcher."
On Wednesday, No. 14 Kansas City prospect Humberto Arteaga provided the pop for the Legends, going 2-for-4 with a triple that drove in all three of the team's runs. Top Royals prospect Bubba Starling went 1-for-4 with a run scored.