Chicago Cubs: Albert Almora continues to hit, provide stellar defense

(Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Cubs
(Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images) /

As we head into the back half of June, Chicago Cubs outfielder Albert Almora continues to do what he’s done all year: hit and rob opponents of base knocks.

Out of Spring Training, Albert Almora once again found himself as the odd man out. Ian Happ, entering his first full Major League season, stole the starting center field job from Almora, despite a solid 2017 performance.

But, really, Happ earned the nod. In Cactus League play, the young outfielder torched opposing pitchers to the tune of a .321/.400/.811 slash line with seven home runs and a dozen RBI. By contrast, Almora hit just .164 this spring – leading Joe Maddon to go with the white-hot Happ heading into Opening Weekend in Miami.

And, at first, it seemed like Maddon made the right call. Happ opened the 2018 big league calendar by smacking a solo shot into the right field seats at Marlins Park. From there, though, he went into a tailspin. Strikeouts piled up and he hit just .246 through the end of April.

As Happ struggled to find his footing as the team’s leadoff hitter and starting center fielder, Almora rose to the occasion. Through the end of April, the former first-rounder put up a .341 on-base percentage, while flirting with a .300 average.

The best part? He’s built upon that average, increasing it in a big way with each passing month. When he gets the nod, he doesn’t waste the opportunity, giving the Cubs an above-average outfielder with a more-than-average bat.