Name: Albert Almora, CF
Age: 20 (4/16/1994)
Daytona Cubs, Florida State League, High A (89 G, .283/.306/.406, 7 HR, 50 RBI);
Tennessee Smokies, Southern League, AA (36 G, .234/.250/.355, 2 HR, 10 RBI).
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.
Almora learned several valuable lessons during the 2014 season, on and off the field. With his father battling cancer, the 19-year-old embarked on his first full season back home in the Florida State League. I guess since he didn’t tear up the league as one of the youngest players, some considered Almora’s ’14 season sub-par, but fortunately, not all minor league progression and development is based on stats—and at Daytona, his numbers weren’t bad. Almora was streaky in the FSL, hitting .284 over the first 18 games and then saw his average dip to .235 with a 7-45 stretch over his next 12 games. Over his next six games he went 13-for-28 and the roller caster ride continued as his averaged fluctuated between 240-270 the rest of the season. On July 14 at Jupiter, Almora hit for the cycle in a 13-8, 13-inning win, going 5-for-7 with 5 RBI, including a go-ahead two-run triple in the 13th. Almora played his final game for the D-Cubs July 22 (2-3, HR 3 RBI) and made his AA debut July 24, going 0-for-4 against Mississippi (Braves). Almora never got on track in Tennessee, hitting .234/.250/.355. As was his issue in Daytona and even more exposed in AA, Almora couldn’t lay off pitches and essentially made too much contract, with a 3.1 % walk rate at Daytona and just 1.4 at Tennessee. He’s not a big strikeout guys (around 11% for career) but has a knack to make contact with about everything, including the pitcher’s ‘pitch’.
After sliding down top prospect lists and totally out of some, Almora made them all take notice at spring training, hitting .345/.367/.448 in 17 games at big league camp. He recently told reporters he was working on a new approach at the plate that entailed taking more pitches and waiting for a pitch to drive. Almora has the ability to put the ball in play to all fields but most of his power is to the left side of the diamond. His defense is ‘big league ready’, and uses his baseball instincts to make up for average speed on defense and on the bases. Almora will be back in AA to test his new approach and continue his climb to the big leagues.