Albert Almora Jr. is in big league camp for the third straight spring on a non-roster invite. And the former first round pick has been rather impressive in practice as the team prepares for the start of the Cactus League season.
Albert Almora Jr. was the first player drafted by the Theo Epstein administration. The Cubs selected Almora Jr. with the sixth overall pick in the 2012 draft. The 18-year old signed and played his first 33 games in professional baseball in the Arizona Rookie League and Short-Season Boise almost four years ago.
Almora Jr. finished the 2014 season with Double-A Tennessee after playing the first 89 games of the year with High-A Daytona. Almora Jr. struggled at the plate with the Smokies as would be expected and hit only .234/.250/.355 in 36 games. The Cubs sent Almora Jr. to Double-A to start the 2015 season. At the time the thought was Almora Jr. would spend the first half with the Smokies and finish the year with Triple-A Iowa.
When it comes to Albert Almora Jr. his defense has never been a question. Almora Jr. is considered an above-average centerfielder that could patrol outfields in the big leagues for the Cubs right now. Before last August, Almora Jr. was not developing offensively as the front office hoped.
Almora Jr. batted just .244/.285/.340 in his first 55 games last year with eight doubles, three triples and two home runs for a .625 OPS. Almora Jr. walked 13 times with 24 strikeouts in 209 at bats. Needless to say there was concern about his future. And then came August.
Albert Almora Jr. caught fire in August. In 31 games, Almora Jr. went 44-for-125 with 16 extra basehits. Almora Jr.’s line in August ended up .352/.413/.504 with 14 doubles, a triple and a home run for a .917 OPS.
As it turns out, a conversation he had with Miguel Montero while the Cubs’ catcher was on a rehab assignment at Double-A Tennessee in August, along with support from his skipper, appears to have put his career back on track.
Miguel Montero explained to the Sun-Times what he said to Almora Jr. last summer.
“Pretty much what I told him was just, ‘Take your head out of your ass and go and play, you either play hard and come ready to play every day or you’re going to be stuck here for a long time.’ That’s was pretty much it.”
According to the Sun-Times, Montero also told Almora Jr. “that regardless of his talent, better players than him have failed because of attitude.”
Due to getting incredibly hot at the plate in August, Almora Jr. finished last season with a .272/.327/.400 line with 26 doubles, four triples and six home runs for a .727 OPS.
“I just decided, ‘Hey listen, it’s time to go. I’ve got to prove that I’m a good baseball player,” Almora Jr. said to the Sun-Times. “And I really don’t have to prove it. You think, ‘I’ve always been that guy; just do it.”
Albert Almora Jr. also turned off his social media accounts shortly after the season and focused solely on his baseball career. There has been a noticeable difference this spring. Almora Jr. added muscle during the off-season. And not only does he look stronger, according to the Sun-Times, he’s “flashing more confidence … the first thing anyone in camp says they noticed when his name comes up.”
The Sun-Times reported that Almora Jr. is considered one of the top two defensive outfielders in the organization … the other, Jason Heyward. With Dexter Fowler only on a one-year guaranteed contract he is not blocked at the Major League level.
While it’s just been practice, Almora Jr. has really stood out. He is driving the ball in BP with consistent mechanics and flashing power that just hasn’t been there the last two springs.
Albert Almora Jr. knows this is a big year in his development and for his career. And he reported to camp prepared to take the next step toward the big leagues.