Chicago Cubs: Albert Almora continues to shine in center field
The hashtag spread widely across Twitter known as #FreeAlmora may finally be making its way to Joe Maddon’s head, and it’s about time.
The Chicago Cubs enter Saturday’s night game with the San Francisco Giants at 19-10 when Albert Almora starts. They’re 0-5 when he doesn’t play at and 7-6 when he doesn’t start.
Almora has been an on-base machine in May, putting together an OBP of .397 that includes a 9.5 percent walk rate and a very healthy 14.3 percent strikeout rate.
Five out of the last six games Almora has batted leadoff or second in the lineup when he starts. He’s got a hit in each of those games
Coming through in the clutch
The Cubs inconsistency has been a problem all season, but Almora has been a guy Maddon can rely on defensively and now offensively. Last season, he struggled against righties, but this season he’s emerged as a hitter who can play well against both lefties and righties.
Against right-handed hitters, Almora is slashing .308/.364/.385. and a 109 wRC+. He’s made the adjustments.
Maddon has found ways to play him more than last season. But he should an every day starting player and by season’s end, he likely will be.
Not to mention he gold glove defense and highlight reel catches we’ve seen already, Almora’s range and speed in the outfield is superior to Ian Happ. He’s is a better corner outfielder.
The Cubs depth is a great thing to have, but development is stalled when young players aren’t getting every day at-bats. Almora has used it as motivation and is basically forcing Maddon to play him.
After struggling in April, Happ has started to heat up this month and he’s starting to see more playing time. He’s slashing .255/.441/.667 in May with five home runs and 10 runs batted in.
Jason Heyward missed time due to injury, and since his return he really hasn’t played much because of Happ. Heyward’s .664 OPS tells the struggles of his season at the plate.
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An outfield of Kyle Schwarber, Almora and Happ is ideally what the Cubs would like to put out there on a nightly basis. Heyward’s defense will be good late in games. But his inability to hit like the Cubs paid him to is frustrating for fans and likely Maddon, too.
It will be interesting to see how this outfield plays out by the end of September.