Throughout the first half of the minor league season, the Cubs’ brass did not waver in their support of outfielder Albert Almora Jr. While the media and fan base wondered why Almora Jr. was struggling at the plate, the Cubs said he was fine and the numbers would be closer to realistic expectations before the end of the season.
Almora Jr. has done exactly what the front office thought and believed he would at the plate while maintaining his high-level of defense in the field.
Albert Almora Jr. is batting .294/.363/.469 over his last 37 games with 16 doubles and three home runs for a .837 OPS. Almora Jr. has walked 13 times with 16 strikeouts in his last 143 at bats. But he’s really stepped it up in August.
Over his last 20 games, Almora Jr. is hitting .341/.407/.488 with 12 doubles for a .894 OPS. Almora Jr. has walked (7) as many times has he’s struck out (7) over his last 82 at bats.
After putting together a .244/.285/.340 slash line in his first 55 games of the year, Almora Jr. has a slash line of .264/.317/.392 with a .709 OPS for the season.
Jed Hoyer talked about Almora Jr.’s second half and explained to the Tribune, “Second half numbers are very, very important when you’re looking at minor league players. Some guys get tired and you have to think through that. When a guy’s kept at a level, does he start to master that level? The way he has played in the second half, he really has come a long way. Sometimes you forget he’s 21. You have to pay more attention to second half stats. This guy had his struggles but was able to come out of it. That’s very important.”
Almora Jr. had a 13-game hitting streak that was snapped Wednesday. After going 0-for-4 Thursday, Almora Jr. went 2-for-7 with a double and a run scored Friday and delivered the game winner in the 12th inning. Almora Jr. singled in Anthony Giansanti in the Smokies 7-6 victory over Montgomery.
Double-A Tennessee’s last regular season game is Sept. 7 in Biloxi. If he can keep up the pace, Albert Almora Jr.’s offensive numbers will be even closer to pre-season expectations. And patrolling the outfield for the Iowa Cubs next spring should be the next step in his development.
Mark Zagunis’ stint on the 7-day disabled list did not last long. Mark Zagunis landed on the DL on Tuesday, retroactive to Aug. 8, and he was activated Thursday. Zagunis apparently recovered from being hit in the helmet during an at bat on Aug. 7.
Zagunis is 2-for-9 with a double, a run scored and two RBI since being activated from the DL with three strikeouts.
After cooling off in July (.177/.322/.240), Zagunis has gotten back on track. Over his last eight games, Zagunis is 8-for-30 with two doubles and two home runs (.267/.333/.533) for a .867 OPS.
The Cubs’ third round pick in the 2014 draft has put together a very good first full-season in professional baseball. In 103 games, Zagunis is batting .273/.404/.413 with 23 doubles, four triples and seven home runs for a .817 OPS. Zagunis has 71 walks and 75 strikeouts in 373 at bats.
Mark Zagunis was a Carolina League midseason All-Star and named the Cubs Minor League Player of the Month for June.
Ian Happ has performed rather well at the plate since his promotion to the South Bend Cubs on July 25. Happ has played only in the outfield and is expected to spend time in the infield during Fall Instructs. At the plate, Happ is batting .284/.356/.534 with six doubles, two triples and four home runs for a .891 OPS.
Happ recently explained to MiLB.com how he taught himself to switch-hit. And he’s two different hitters. Happ feels he uses the entire field better from the left side and he’s more of “a middle-to-left guy” from the right side.
In 19 at bats against left-handed pitching since his promotion to South Bend, Happ is batting .316/.333/.579 with two doubles and a home run for a .912 OPS. In 69 at bats versus right-handers, Happ is hitting .275/.363/.522 with four doubles, two triples and three home runs for a .884 OPS.
Since reporting to Short-Season Eugene, Ian Happ has hit .284/.385/.510 in 52 games with 14 doubles, three triples, eight home runs and a .896 OPS. In 194 at bats, Happ has 34 walks with 55 strikeouts.