Chicago Cubs Prospect Albert Almora may have a surprisingly big impact in 2016. Almora’s elite center-field defense make him an ideal bench player for a team with two defensively suspect corner outfielders, and a gold glove right fielder playing out of position in center field.
If you want to win some bar bets this July, pay close attention to Albert Almora. Almora is the first in a line of dominos that could affect the Cubs’s trade moves in July 2016.
Almora is not a name familiar to most casual Cubs fans. He was the Cubs’ first-round draft pick in 2012. At only 21-years-old, Almora is already a gold-glove caliber center fielder. Almora’s bat, however, has held him in the minors thus far.
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Yet in August 2015 Almora seemed to figure something out, hitting .352 with a .432 on-base-percentage (OBP) and 11 walks over the last month of the season. By comparison, Almora earned only 14 walks in the entirety of 2014.
Almora is expected to start 2016 in Triple-A. The Cubs will pay close attention this spring to see if his patient approach at the plate continues. If it does, expect to see Almora in the majors by June.
Almora’s primary value in 2016 would come as a defensive substitute. Last season, Joe Maddon often defensively replaced Kyle Schwarber and Jorge Soler when the Cubs were leading late in games. I expect Maddon will continue this trend in 2016.
Almora’s elite center-field defense would allow Maddon to improve outfield defense at two positions with a single substitution. Maddon can shift Jason Heyward to his natural (gold glove) position in right field, replacing Soler, and put Almora – who is even better defensively than Heyward – in center field.
But Almora’s effect goes further. The Cubs believe Almora is their center fielder of the future. Almora’s defense could easily be worth 2 WAR today.
This makes Almora’s glove nearly as valuable as Jorge Soler’s bat. If Almora shows he can hit major league pitching, Soler becomes expendable.
It is no secret that the Cubs would like to acquire a young, cost controlled mid-rotation pitcher via trade. Soler has already been the centerpiece of several near trades (e.g. Soler/Contreras for Shelby Miller).
Right now trade prices are high, as many teams still believe they can contend. Come July, at least, one team out of contention is going to be a little more willing to deal. And the Cubs will have the most attractive cost-controlled position player on the market in Soler.
So if you want to win some bar bets, pay close attention to Albert Almora. If he is in the majors and has an OBP over .350 in June, make a bet that Jorge Soler gets traded in July.