A walk-off win, at whatever level of the Chicago Cubs’ system, always hits me right in the smiley spot.
Last night, the Iowa Cubs were trailing the Nashville Sounds for the first six and a half innings of the game, when Willson Contreras homered to cut the deficit to 2-1. But with two outs in the bottom of the 9th, and nobody on base, the I-Cubs still trailed.
But Dan Vogelbach took a walk, and Arismendy Alcantara ran for him and stole a base. Then Taylor Davis took a walk. That brought center fielder Albert Almora to the plate, and he did this:
Wow. Even the young Cubs know how to celebrate a walk-off win with extreme excitement! Poor Almora’s jersey will never be the same.
Almora is not only working a 10-game hitting streak, but that double also extended a four-game multi-hit streak. His line at AAA is up to .333/.358/.488, and, although his walk rate is still below 5.0%, his ISO is the highest of his minor league career and he’s still not striking out. In other words, although he’s still swinging a whole lot, at least he’s making better contact than he has in years past, and the adjustments he’s made over the past year and a half still seem to be taking hold (even if the walk rate is down slightly from last year).
Almora just turned 22 last month, and already plays MLB-caliber (to say the least) defense in center field. As we’ve seen in the Cubs’ outfield this year, with Kyle Schwarber already out, with Matt Szczur injured, with Jorge Soler intermittently struggling, and with other injuries always lurking, the chance that Almora will have an opportunity to come up and contribute in the second half of the season is certainly non-zero. The Cubs won’t want to rush things unless it becomes absolutely necessary, of course. But even if that doesn’t happen, there’s a very good chance Almora will join the big league team in September when rosters expand to include the full 40-man, as the AAA Iowa season will be over by then, and Almora has to be added to the 40-man roster in the offseason anyway to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft.
His glove will be quite a nice late-game luxury in September, eh?