Albert Almora Jr. got his call to the big leagues on Tuesday with Jorge Soler hitting the DL due to his hammy. It has been a roller coaster ride for Almora since he was the first draft pick of the Hoyer and Epstein era in Chicago in 2012. He has gone from future superstar to draft dud back to being a possible MLB starter in just a matter of 4 years. Through all of this though, we seem to forget that the kid is still just 22 years old and has a long career ahead of him. Let’s take a look at what to expect from the Miami native moving forward.
I have seen multiple comparisons for Almora to Toronto Blue Jays centerfielder Kevin Pillar and I love it. In every aspect of their games, I can see similarities. Much like Pillar, Almora projects as a defense first centerfielder. Albert has shown on numerous occasions in the minor leagues that he has Gold Glove caliber defense already. His average speed is supplemented by elite range and route efficiency. To go along with the defense, Almora shows the ability to make contact with just about everything thrown at him at the plate, it is just a matter of finding his pitch to hit and driving the ball. Because of that, he will sport a low strikeout rate but a very low walk rate as well. Ideally, Albert’s hit tool will play more like 2015 Pillar and less like 2016 Pillar.
Short term expectations
Until we know more about the extent of Jorge Soler’s injury, it is hard to say what to expect from Almora in the short term. With a 15-day DL stint guaranteed for Jorge, that means Almora has at least 2 weeks to show what he has to offer in the bigs. Joe Maddon has already mentioned that Tommy La Stella is the player that will benefit the most from Soler’s absence so that means more TLS at third and Kris Bryant in left. I expect Almora’s role to replace Matt Szczur just with more starts and less pinch hit opportunities. AA’s skillset revolves around his defense in the outfield and that is what Maddon and fans should expect from him this season.
Long term expectations
Moving forward, I think what Almora proves he can do this season will have a lot of pull in what the Cubs front office decides to do about Dexter Fowler. While Fowler is on a 1 year contract and playing well on that contract, he will have a fairly high price tag come next offseason. If Almora can prove that he can be a serviceable bat in the lineup, that is really all he will need to win over the starting centerfield position come 2017. A .250/.280/.375 slash line may be all he needs to produce at the plate in his first few seasons to stick around. Much like Addison Russell now, his plus-plus defense at a premium position may be good enough while we wait for him to come into his own at the plate.