At this time last year there was a lot of buzz around Cubs’ camp about Addison Russell’s defense at shortstop. Russell showed early in the Cactus League schedule it was only a matter of time before he became the team’s every day shortstop. It was easy to see why scouts raved about Russell.
This spring, Albert Almora Jr. reported to Spring Training with a different focus than in previous years. Almora Jr. has put together a good camp as he prepares to start the season with Triple-A Iowa.
Almora Jr. is arguably the best defensive outfielder in the organization not named Jason Heyward. And he made another sensational play Wednesday in Surprise.
Offensively, Almora Jr. has hit better this spring than his stats indicate. Joe Maddon pointed out Wednesday during the broadcast on Comcast SportsNet that every time he sees Almora Jr. the outfielder is hitting line drives.
In 11 Cactus League games, Almora Jr. is 5-for-23 with two doubles and three strikeouts (.217/.208/.304).
The Cubs are looking for Almora Jr. to pick up in Iowa where he left off last August with Double-A Tennessee. The light seemed to turn on for Almora Jr. after a conversation with Miguel Montero. Almora Jr. hit .352/.413/.504 in 31 games in August with 14 doubles, a triple and a home run for a .917 OPS. Plus, Almora Jr. walked 11 times with 13 strikeouts in 125 at bats. Almora Jr. walked almost as many times in August as he did in 2013 (17) and 2014 (14).
Albert Almora Jr. is in big league camp as a non-roster invitee and does not have to be added to the 40-man roster until the off-season. With Dexter Fowler on a one-year guaranteed deal, Almora Jr. is not blocked and could be patrolling the outfield alongside Jason Heyward in the not too distant future.