Albert Almora, CF, Age: 19 (4/16/1994), Bats: Right, Throws: Right, Height: 6-foot-2, Weight: 180
2013 Team: Kane County Cougars, Midwest League (A)
Northsiders Report 2014 Ranking—# 4
How acquired:—Drafted in the first round in the 2012 draft (6th overall)
Prior to Cubs
Almora drew interest when he was in junior high and by the time he graduated from Mater Academy Charter High School in Hialeah Gardens, Florida, he had established himself as one of the top amateur players in the country. He hit .603 with 13 doubles, 34 RBI, 24 SB in 25 games his senior season. He was named USA Baseball's Athlete of the Year after earning MVP honors for the gold medal team at the 18-under Pan-Am Games in 2011. Almora had committed to the University of Miami before begin taken by the Cubs with the sixth overall pick.
After signing a $3.9 million bonus near the deadline, Almora made his pro debut on July 23 blasting a homer for Mesa in the Arizona Rookie League. He showcased his first-round skills in 18 games at Mesa (.347/363/480) with 18 runs and five stolen bases. He was promoted to Boise and ended his first year hitting .292/.292/.446 with a homer and six RBI in 15 games for the Hawks.
All eyes were on Almora as he attended his first spring training but that was short-lived as he broke his hamate bone swinging a bat on March 14 and had surgery on his hand the next day. After a two-month rehab in Mesa, Almora finally joined Kane County on May 23 and took the league by storm as he earned player of the week honors his first six days in town and hit .430/.465/.595 in his first 19 games with 11 RBI and 15 runs.
However, his season ended like it began, on the disabled list as he missed the final month with a bone bruise in his groin. Almora only played in 61 games in the Midwest League but displayed his skills hitting .329/.376/.466 with 24 extra base hits (3 HR) and 23 RBI. He had 10 games with at least three hits and a 13-game hitting streak. Almora played a solid defensive centerfield and while he's not a prototypical base stealer, does show above average base running skills with the ability to take the extra base.
Almora got some of those missed at-bats back in the Arizona Fall League as he was the second youngest player in the league. He didn't disappoint getting named to the East All-Star team and ended the season hitting .307/.342/.480 in 21 games (75 at-bats). Almora said the AFL was a great learning experience for him, especially the mental part of the game.
Scout.com Kiley McDaniel saw Almora during the Arizona Fall league and wrote this about him. "I'll try to refrain from going on too long gushing about Almora as I had him atop my draft board in 2012 (he went 6th overall) and have been bullish on him since the first time I scouted him. My first game seeing in the the AFL was vintage Almora, with a huge homer on the first pitch he saw, a masterful lunge at a ball out of the zone on a hit-and-run for a hustle double to the opposite field, a line drive single to center, another single to left and a diving catch in center for good measure."
"The tools rundown is impressive but what makes Almora so special are his instincts to maximize those tools. It's a 70 bat and may be an 80 when all is said and done. He has such feel for hitting that he'll likely never walk that much but also won't strike out much, either. He has above average raw power that translates to games and could produce 20+ homers in the big leagues and is a plus defender in center with an above average arm. He's only a solid-average runner but has an uncanny ability to get great jumps defensively and on the base paths. It's an All-Star package, should move quickly now that the hamate injury is behind him."
Daytona fans will get to see the final piece of the Cubs Big 4 prospects as Almora is expected to start 2014 in center at Jackie Robinson Ballpark. Staying healthy and racking up plate appearances will be the priority for Almora in 2014 as he makes his way to the majors. As well as he hit in the AFL, there's no reason to believe he won't be able to duplicate that success in the FSL and may test AA as a 20-year-old before the season is over. Sometime in 2015, Almora will be patrolling the outfield at Wrigley with the iconic scoreboard at his back if he can stay on track with his development.
On Deck: Gioskar Amaya and Tyler Alamo