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We discussed it this morning in the comments, and, as if on cue, it happened: 2012 first round pick Albert Almora will be promoted to short-season A-ball tomorrow. The 18-year-old center fielder, who was the sixth overall pick in the 2012 Draft, will join the Boise Hawks after opening his professional career in rookie ball in Mesa.

There, Almora hit well in limited time, particularly lately – his line now stands at a healthy .347/.363/.480 in 80 plate appearances. Boise’s season has just shy of three weeks left, so Almora will get in a fair number of at bats at that level, but not enough to really judge his development. The promotion is more about giving him a taste of a higher level, in anticipation of the real challenge, which will come in 2013. Keep in mind: Almora just turned 18 in April, so even reaching Boise at this stage in his career is something of an accomplishment.

  • Matt

    Kind of amazed at how much contact he was making. 10 Ks and 2 BB in like 80 PA.

    • Flashfire

      Next year’s project: take a walk, Al.

      • Scotti

        No need to “take a walk” when you’re batting .347. Take a walk when pitchers aren’t throwing you hittable strikes.

        • ferrets_bueller

          …and that approach is why Starlin Castro isn’t better than he is. Selectivity is ALWAYS important.

  • Mitch

    Just adds another promising player to a stacked roster. Living in the midwest I can’t wait for next year to see the team Peoria puts together.

    • MWL observer

      Who says the Cubs will be back in Peoria?

      • nkniacc13

        I don’t think the Cubs contract with Peoria expires after this year so they would be back

        • Grant

          The Chiefs and Cubs contract IS up. I highly doubt they will be together unless a deal with KC or SB falls through.

  • scorecardpaul

    a taste of meaningful games might also be the plan

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      The games are only marginally more “meaningful” than the AZL games. Not sure there’s much of that to it – just a taste of better competition.

      • scorecardpaul

        I’m assuming you meant to say “marginally” better competition in a playoff race?

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          I think we’re saying the same thing – I’m just saying that the leap in “realness” or “meaningfulness” from rookie ball to short-season A-ball, even in a playoff race, is not a huge leap.

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

            In this case there might be. The players do take winning and playoffs seriously, even that level, and even when a lot of us non-local fans don’t. From that perspective, nothing will change.

            But he’ll be going from a crowd of a few hundred at most to a regular crowd of over three thousand. That should amp up the intensity of things to a noticeable degree.

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              Yeah, but, I mean, the kid has played on how many Team USA teams? I just don’t see that angle for him. It’s about seeing better competition (and maybe being humbled a bit) before the offseason.

              • Scotti

                And maybe having his season extended (extra reps) if they make the playoffs.

              • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

                That’s true. Team USA does tend to draw some significant crowds.

  • Chris

    I’m just excited I can watch Boise home games on MiBL.com. $9.99 a month the rest of the season gentleman. And the Boise radio analyst is pretty good too.

  • Matt

    Taste of “more real” games might be a better phrase. AZL games probably have like 30 people attending them.

  • http://bleachernation.com someday…2015?

    I can’t wait to see Almora play Center at Wrigley in 2014/15. Future NL MVP.

    • Scotti

      More like 2016 in LF and maybe an All-Star some day but, yeah, go Albert.

      • Flashfire

        What’s your thinking on left? He would seem to have the range for center and would absolutely be a plus bat at the position.

        • Scotti

          Szczur is a very legitimate CF prospect and several leagues ahead of him.

          • Serious Cubs Fan

            Idk I kinda think he could be a better reed Johnson. Not quiet a starter but a very good backup and better then johnson ever was. He can play all three OF spots, and has a decent plate approach with speed

            • Scotti

              I have Szczur #2 in the org. Very high floor, high ceiling, proximity, plus speed, excellent contact skills with a full swing, good size, etc.

              • Drew7

                With him being a unique case (older but limited full-time baseball action), it will be interesting to see how his power develops. His improvement with his plate-discipline has really helped him step up his game.

          • Flashfire

            I’d thought Almora was rated as highly on defense as Szczur is, but maybe I’m wrong. I keep imagining Theo will stick an OPS monster in left — probably by free agency — when the team is ready to compete. I think Almora is going to be a solid hitter, but he will never remind anyone of Manny Ramirez.

            • Scotti

              Proximity, proximity, proximity. Szczur is in AA and Almora is in low A. Almora is likely a 2017 proposition.

              • Flashfire

                I think Theo’s timeline is ahead of yours. When he was drafted, one of the things the Cubs said is his time in USA Baseball will let him quickly though the system. Your 2017 timeline is assuming full year stops at every level.

                • Drew7

                  Quickly compared to your typical HS draft pick probably, but I still don’t think we’ll be seeing him until 2016.

                  • http://bleachernation.com someday…2015?

                    Almora was regarded as the closest high school player to the majors in this years draft… 17 is way off.

                    • Scotti

                      Take a gander at the historical list of “closest to the majors” high school guys and I bet you’d be disapointed.

                  • Drew7

                    *full-time

                • Scotti

                  Plenty of cats play summer/fall ball (and, yes, I know his history there). The LIKELIHOOD of him being a productive MLB player prior to 2017 are slim. The likelihood of him leap-frogging Szczur are even smaller. I expect him to start at Peoria next year at 19-y/o. If he’s pushed to Daytona I would expect him to struggle.

              • nkniacc13

                I think your going to Suzcur back in AA next year and you will see Almora in either Peoria or Dayton

                • Scotti

                  Yup. And the next year Szczur is in AAA or MLB and Almora is in Daytona or AA. Szczur has to move up 2 levels and Almora has to move up 5.

                  • Scotti

                    BTW, I personally think it’s 50-50 as to where Szczur starts next year. He’s starting to hit the ball in AA. If he continues and has a good AFL and spring then he will start next year in AAA.

                • Jeremy

                  Almora is a far superior CF prospect then Szczur. Were talking elite CF defense. Much more likely that Szczur gets moved to LF then Almora.

                  • Drew7

                    I don’t know either way for sure, but “far superior” would seem to be a stretch.

                  • Scotti

                    Much more likely that Almora flames out like most #1 draft picks do. That said, I believe he will make a solid contribution. But no prospect is can’t miss. In terms of Almora’s abilities… If he was half of what some folks here think he is he wouldn’t have lasted to the Cubs pick. He was a good pick and he’s a good prospect. He’s also likely to be human.

                    • EvenBetterNewsV2.0

                      Dude he was the sixth pick in the draft. Not like a lot of teams passed on him. If you are trying to temper expectations on a talent like Almora, why are you so high on Szczur? He is an ok talent, and possibly an ok backup, but no way is he an every day major league player. Almora IF he makes it to the majors will be looking at a September 2015 call up as the goal. How old will he be? How old will Szczur be then? You really think Szczur will block this kid if he makes it on that timeline? If you do, bold statement. Don’t agree with you in the least, and don’t think many others would either, but at least you are sticking to it.

                    • Drew7

                      If both pan out, the Cubs will have a very good defensive outfield.

                      Szczur has made himself into a very nice prospect. Before this year, I’d have been more inclined to agree with you, EBN, but he really stepped it up. Like I said, if he can develop power, he will be a solid regular.

                      It’s hard to project what Almora will turn out to be, with him being so far away. One would be justified to be excited about him, but worrying about who he will
                      bump from CF is a little premature.

                      All in all, I’m glad both are part of the organization, because both are very good prospects.

                    • Scotti

                      EBN, first, hyperbole like Szczur is maybe a decent backup doesn’t help your argument. Offensively Szczur has two plus tools (hit and speed). The other offensive tool is power and should settle near MLB average. We have had good reports of his defense. That is not a back up.

                      Second, I am HIGH on Almora but RATIONALLY so. If teams drafting ahead of the Cubs thought Almora was an eighty on defense and had a timeline of two years (see above) to three years (yours) then he would NOT have lasted until our pick. Highly regarded high school picks are not EXPECTED to spend two to three years in the minors. After a handfull of games at Mesa he’s done little to change the notion that he’s a high floor, modest ceiling guy.

                      In regard to whether I think Szczur will “block” Almora “IF” he makes it on some rediculus timeline… That’s a strawman. It’s silly to say that if Almora makes it he’ll have to be quicker to the majors than other high school players in his slot. You might as well ask how Almora will push aside Szczur who will, of course, be an All-Star, lead the league in SB and have a gold glove (to go with the ones that Almora will win before he plays MLB).

                    • Drew7

                      Good points, Scotti.

                      So your top 5 would look something like…

                      Baez
                      Szczur
                      Soler
                      Almora
                      Viscaino?

                    • Scotti

                      Drew, I don’t “rate” injured or recovering players so guys like Viscaino and Whitenack get their own side DL as it were–there are just way too many variables to line them up next to non-injured/recovering players. Some team draft boards are actually constructed this was as well. If either V or W come back with their prior stuff and can start both would be top five for me.

                      I also prize proximity. I don’t ignore the DSL or guys from recent drafts or signings but a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush. Today’s Vitters was yesterday’s Vitters, if you get my drift. Baseball America (and leaches like KLaw) make their living selling new hotness. They also burnish their reputations by keeping prosects on their top fill-in-the-blank lists well after the industry has moved off a player.

                      So while guys like Rizzo, Vitters, Jackson, etc. get downgraded because they struggle in their first bit of MLB action, the fact is they are experiencing MLB action! All three of those guys have the tools to be above average MLB for their positions. But for some the tarnish of thier initial partial seasons diminishs the silver beneath the film.

                      In terms of top five… As you stated I know my top two. Beyond that you have guys like Soler, Vitters, Almora, Torreyes, Jackson, Vogelbach (in no particular order) and perhaps a couple of others looking to crack the top five.

      • Matt

        Who do you have playing CF? Almora has gotten 80 grades for his defense from scouts.

        • nkniacc13

          Id have Suzcur in left, Almora in center and Soler in Right

        • Scotti

          No one in baseball, anywhere, has a legit “80″ on defense right now much less an 18-y/o with a handfull of pro games under his belt. Don’t listen to those “scouts” anymore.

        • Serious Cubs Fan

          I dont see Almora really being MVP. Way to early to tell, though. Hes more of Hunter pence with better defense and maybe a tick higher in the batting average. I don’t see him being the next Andrew McCutchen ( I hope he is but I dont know if he has that type of skill, McCutchen has more speed and probably a better average with his bat speed). McCutchen has better bat speed, speed, and maybe more pop but its way to early to tell about power since his 18. But I do think Almora will be a productive Offensive, great defensive allstar. He wont put up the monster offensive numbers needed to win an MVP, but will be solid and still put up good numbers

          • bails17

            No one thought Andrew McCutchen was really going to be the Andrew McCutchen we have seen this year. Same with Mike Trout. It just happens that way. Both had (have) high ceilings and just happen to be playing right to the top of them right now. Almora “could” be that type of player, sure. But to say you envision him being that type of player is a bold statement indeed. What you have in Almora is this. Great organizational guy. Off the charts makeup for a HS draftee. He has the tools to be at least a solid MLB contributor. However, with his mindset and work ethic…you could have much, much more. That is the exciting part for me. Give me the guys that have it upstairs, and I will take my chances with them making it!

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

              I still don’t understand how McCutchen generates all that power…

      • Mysterious4th

        Most teams put their player that lack defensive skills in left. The FO would be stupid to waste his defensive skills. I can see him in right if CF is locked up when he hits AAA ball or the majors. But LF, no way! Why do you think soriano was moved to left? His glove isn’t that great (this year has been better then years previous).

        • nkniacc13

          I think everyone is going with Soler in right so that leaves Left, center or traded

        • ferrets_bueller

          Who is a better RF, Soler or Almora? Soler. He’s pretty much the prototype, arm and all.

          Who is the better CF? Most likely Szczur.

          Where does that leave Almora? LF, second in line for CF.

          There are a LOT of good players in LF. Brett Gardner would be a GG CF, but he plays left. Same with whoever the Angels trot out on a particular day.

          • Scotti

            We’ll play Almora in short-center. The new Moneyball…

          • J R

            I could be wrong but I thought Almora has absolute elite annual gold glove potential in center. I know Sczcur is faster, but Almora should be better at of every other aspect of centerfield than him.

        • Scotti

          If you have three good defenders then you play one in left. NOT doing so would be silly.

        • art

          why do you have to have a bum in LF?

  • Serious Cubs Fan

    Is it just me or is it pretty clear now that Vitters and Jackson were not ready to be called up? They look horrible. Need to go back down and keep on grinding at bats and working on that plate displine

    • Drew7

      Jackson doesnt need to work on plate-discipline, he needs to not swing a bat with holes in it…

      • Scotti

        It’d be nice if he went with the grip he used before.

    • fortyonenorth

      Didn’t Ryno go 0-23 in his first MLB season? I remember thinking, “Man, this guy sucks.” Of course, I was like 11 at the time.

  • Scotti

    Has a player ever won a gold glove while still in the minors?

  • Fastball

    Jackson simply isn’t going to make it. I have been saying all along he highly overrated. He may be great at a lot of things but a lot of guys are and they never make it. He cant hit and its something folks need to accept and move on. He was a .260 hitter in PCL. that translates to he isnt even a a Pie or Patterson. I dont need to see anymore of him. Send him back down and he gets until this time next season to fix his hitting. If not he is either done or a career minor league outfielder. We dont really need him if it gets to that point. He ain’t no Rizzo so I don’t look for him to rebound like Rizzo. O

  • EvenBetterNewsV2.0

    Scotti, since I am unable to reply to you above, I understand where you are coming from, but I personally feel Szczur is more of a gamble even at this point in AA than Almora in very low A. Nobody knows his ceiling because he hasn’t been playing full time long. He is very old to have to be sneaking in as a prospect. He does have great speed and a great glove. But, will he have the bat to play every day? I personally prefer Almora’s swing. He has a very effortless swing. To say we have no idea the potential of Almora because he is just in low A is a little misleading don’t you think? He has played against high caliber talent for a few years on an international level (and performed), and plays at a traditional great high school program. No it isn’t the minors, but it isn’t like he is coming out of Iowa as a wildcard. Ultimately, if both pan out we are very lucky and will both be happy. That is what I am hoping for.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Szczur is very old? For what?

      He made Double A this year and did not turn 23 until July 20. That is not old. That’s right on track. When you consider that he made it to Double A in his second full season as a professional, he’s actually a little ahead of schedule.

      • EvenBetterNewsV2.0

        Old for a top impact prospect. Not too many people who are expected to be 25 before they hit the majors are considered a top impact prospect. That is all I am saying. I like Szczur as a player, but don’t like him as a prospect over Almora. I don’t think there is really a wrong answer on either side, because both are fine players. Almora, IMO has a chance to be an impact prospect for the Cubs.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          What you’re both saying is fair, but I think you need to keep in mind that Szczur’s age situation is quite a bid different from most prospects given the primary focus on football for so long. Yeah, he’s 23, but in terms of full-time focus on baseball? How old is he really, developmentally?

          Again: good points on both sides. I’m just not sure Szczur’s age is the thing that concerns me.

        • Can’t think of a cool name

          I don’t know if this is a one off but the Cardinals have 3 players who were past 25 years old before they started contributing in a big way, David Friese, Allan Craig and John Jay.

    • Scotti

      EBN, again, just to be clear, I like Almora, but Almora doesn’t possess any slam dunk physical tools that scream out at you. Strong arm, decent speed, good bat for average. There is a lot to like there, especially his hit tool, but he won’t likely hit for great power and he is not a burner. But he does have a high floor and he’s a character guy, too.

      Szczur actually has several plus tools. Speed (plus, but not plus, plus), hit and defense. His hit tool is actually his best and that is instructive: When we first drafted Szczur there was LOTS of buzz about him having plus, plus speed (reiterated by Baseball America) in part because of his college football coach saying that he was faster than NFL star Jake Westbrook. Well, Westbrook has always been slow so that wasn’t any big deal (he relied more on his moves) but guys like Callis don’t know football so the hype began. Between that and the saved-a-girl’s-life-story, talk of Szczur’s ability to barrel the ball with a full swing got lost. KLaw somehow turned that into “He swings like Pierre and throws like a girl” or some such. Cub fans really don’t know how special he is.

      There is always buzz about new players who get lots of money. Again, there should be buzz about Szczur but it’s his BAT that is so special. He takes walks, doesn’t K, and hits for average. He hit .443 as a Jr in college (he sat out his freshman year due to a football injury). He’s a career .295 hitter in pro ball.

      In terms of him “sneaking in as a prospect” I’m not exactly sure what that means. Headed into the season BA had him rated #64 in their top 100. After the season he’s had this year he will climb higher. Perfect Game had him ranked as the Cub’s #3 prospect (behind Rizzo and ahead of Baez). There’s no sneaking here. Oh, and he’s high character as well.

      Nobody knows his ceiling because he hasn’t been playing full time long.

      The guy has over a thousand minor league plate appearances. He had an additional 400 collegiate plate appearances and was drafted twice. He was actually a famous football player and would have been drafted higher in baseball (similarly to Samardzija) if he hadn’t had the football option.

      To say we have no idea the potential of Almora because he is just in low A is a little misleading don’t you think? He has played against high caliber talent for a few years on an international level (and performed), and plays at a traditional great high school program. No it isn’t the minors, but it isn’t like he is coming out of Iowa as a wildcard.

      I never said that we don’t know the potential of Almora. I said that he is far away from the major leagues. I’ve also said that he isn’t a toolsy kind of guy. We KNOW these things. Still, you’re trying to argue that we DO know about Almora because he played against good competition in high school and yet we DON’T know about Szczur because he “only” had 1,400 PA in levels higher than Almora has ever played in prior to his 18 games in Mesa. That dog don’t hunt.

      Almora has a high floor and a decent ceiling. His best tool could be his bat for average and that is good because that is the most important tool in baseball. He will also provide good defense with a strong arm. But he just doesn’t knock you out with either his power or speed.

      After a slow start at Mesa, Almora caught fire and has been promoted. Szczur was promoted after having a really good year in Daytona (.295/.394.407/.801), and now after a slow start in Tennessee, he is crushing the ball (.333/.421/.667/1.088 over his eight-game hitting streak). Both guys are doing well. That’s good and I root for both to do really well. But a high signing bonus and a #1 draft selection aren’t going to dissuade me from ranking Szczur ahead of Almora. Szczur has too much going on at advanced levels and Almora still has too much to do to prove himself.

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