albert almora cubsOn the balance, it’s been a great year for Cubs outfield prospect Albert Almora, Jr. Although he started out slow at AA Tennessee, he picked things up so strongly in the second half that not only are his overall numbers very solid (especially for one of the youngest players in the league – and a guy who plays sublime defense), he won the organization’s player of the month award for August.

Perhaps the only ding on Almora right now is that, in part because of his particular brand of baseball – all out, get the ball no matter what – he’s missed time here and there with injuries over his professional career. Earlier this season, Almora missed time with a neck/whiplash/concussion-like injury.

Unfortunately, he was removed from last night’s Tennessee game after colliding with the outfield wall, and it’s possible he was shaken up once again in the head/neck area:

With the season ending on Monday, that could be it for Almora in 2015, which, again, was a fantastic year for the prospect when you drill down into it.

Hopefully Almora was just a little shaken up, and his removal was precautionary. It’s a delicate thing to try and change a player’s DNA, and no one wants to see Almora’s defensive ability reduced. But you do want to see him in the lineup as often as possible, so there has to be a balance between making plays and protecting one’s body for the near and long-term.

However this plays out, with health, Almora remains one of the best prospects in the Cubs’ system. He figures to get the bump to AAA next year after probably participating in big league Spring Training. Although I don’t expect that the plan will be to incorporate him at the big league level in 2016, his presence at AAA will necessarily make him a discussable option if there’s an injury in the big league outfield. I’d look for the Cubs to fill center field with another short-term option in 2016, and then we’ll see how this shakes out. You can’t ever really¬†assume a prospect is going to break through and take a particular position at a particular time in the big leagues, but I don’t think anyone would argue that the hope is that Almora can be that guy in center field starting in 2017.