Chicago Cubs: Should Albert Almora get the chance to leadoff?
This is what you’ve all waited for. With all the talk we’ve had about who should lead off for the Chicago Cubs, we’ve finally made it to here. Albert Almora. Many think he deserves the chance, but should he?
Jason Heyward. Anthony Rizzo. Even Javier Baez has gotten some love for us as leadoff for the Chicago Cubs. Well, maybe not love. We suggested it; most people shot that idea down. So know we’ve gotten around to Albert Almora. Some may wonder if he will get the chance to play every day in center field, or if he’ll platoon. We think he’s got the upper hand in starting. But what about leading off?
One of the first things you think of with a leadoff guy is speed. Almora showed off good heads-up baserunning by tagging on Kris Bryant‘s long fly ball in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, putting himself into scoring position. So while we know he’s a smart baserunner, he hasn’t shown us much at all from a base stealing sense.
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Smart, but not fast
Almora has a total of just one stolen base in his career. While he’s not been caught, it’s only one stolen base. Now, the Cubs in Joe Maddon‘s tenure hasn’t been a big base-stealing bunch.
Maddon will occasionally put runners into motion, but there’s rarely a straight steal from the Cubs. So it’s hard to say that he can’t do it, just that he hasn’t had the opportunity.
Sticking it isn’t an issue
How about hitting for average? That’s the one thing that Almora had success with last season, especially in his limited role as a leadoff hitter. In 2017 with 10 games played and 17 plate appearances, Almora batted .294 with a .412 slugging percentage.
Small sample, but an impressive number. For his career, he’s had 13 games with 23 plate appearances and saw the average dip to .217 with a .305 slugging percentage. But he was a rookie, so he’s excused from those three games.
Taking a walk, though?
But here’s the knock on Almora, and it was the same for Baez as many people have pointed out. Almora does not walk. In his 10 games at the leadoff spot, his OBP and his average were the same. Not even a hit-by-pitch to help him out. And his numbers overall last year? A 5.9 BB% and a 16.4 K%. Baez has the same walk rate, but a higher strikeout rate with a 28.3%. So what makes us think that Almora will be any better than anyone else?
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The same way we’ve recommended the other players be given a chance, we’ll do the same for Almora. If he gets to play every day, his patience may increase. I’m also figuring in the Chili Davis factor. As a situational instructor, there should be some rub-off on Almora. But that’s just a guess, as it is for every other Cubs’ hitter.
As it stands now, the Cubs don’t have a leadoff hitter. They might be able to “manufacture” one from what they have. With so many young players and just one season without Dexter Fowler, no one has had the chance. Last season, Maddon was convinced that Kyle Schwarber would be the guy to get it done. He’s admitted he put too much on him. One thing is for sure; you won’t see Maddon pump up anyone, now.