Albert Almora is a too-often overlooked player in the Chicago Cubs organization. That’s partially because he was drafted way back in 2012 – the first draft under the Theo Epstein-led front office – and partially because he has since been leapfrogged in attention and ascendence by the first round picks of 2011 (Javier Baez), 2013 (Kris Bryant) and 2014 (Kyle Schwarber).
Of course, it’s also because he only just began to hit an offensive stride, late last season. Consider from July 2 on, thanks to some noticeable changes and approach adjustments, Almora slashed .304/.368/.470. That .838 OPS (.385 wOBA) would be excellent for *any* 21-year-old in AA, but for a 21-year-old with well above average defense in centerfield, it’s downright excellent.
Already in Spring Training working with the big league team, Almora recently sat down for a Prospect Q&A with Danny Wild of MLB.com and the results are quite interesting. I strongly suggest you to check it out.
Among some of the interesting questions, Almora is asked (and answers) about the improved performance throughout the second half of last season, the work he’s put in this offseason, his invitation to Spring Training, working with Jason Heyward, modeling after Andruw Jones, playing in the Pan American games and much, much more.
The biggest take away, though, is Almora’s description of his new approach at the plate. For a while, Almora admits he thought simply taking more walks was the desired outcome/goal the Cubs were looking to see at the plate. He has since, however, come to understand that the real purpose of every at bat is simply waiting for his pitch – something he can drive – and letting everything else go by earlier in the count. The byproduct of that approach, according to Almora, in addition to driving more pitches, is more and more walks. (YES!)
[Brett: I had the same exclamatory happy reaction when I read that. It’s clear that the organization is teaching young hitters this concept well, and it’s especially important for guys like Almora who have exceptional, God-given contact ability – being able to contact every pitch does not mean swinging at every pitch is a good idea. The walks will come naturally once there is a greater focus on waiting for drivable pitches.]
In addition to his excitement to be on the Cubs, Almora discusses whom he’s modeled his career after, his stellar defense, what he can improve on next year and, lastly, the frustration of missing time after colliding with a wall in left-center field, last September.
I know you never want your players to be so intense that they hurt themselves in the field, but Almora is a self-described “gamer” and will probably never give less than the 100% effort shown here: