#1 – 2B Javier Baez & CF Albert Almora
It is a cop out to have the pair listed here together, but it’s tough to separate the two. Maddon’s commitment to keeping them in the lineup and willingness to slide them into key spots in the order has made a world of difference to a team that has been very much up-and-down offensively in 2018. The numbers don’t lie:
As important as knowing how much these two contribute to getting runs across the plate in wins is knowing that they contribute in losses as well. Of the ten “regulars” in the offensive rotation, only Ian Happ has a smaller difference between BA and OPS when splitting out wins and losses.
While Almora (.320) leads the team in batting average, Baez leads in most every other offensive category (hits, RBI, runs, stolen bases, HR, OPS). Both have been otherworldly on defense, making difficult plays look routine with remarkable frequency.
The fuel in the engine, if you will
Any way you look at it, the combo of Baez and Almora is the single most critical aspect to the Cubs early season success. These two have been highly regarded prospects in the Chicago system for longer than any of their other current players. That they are finally making good on that promise, and it is a thrill to watch.
Now if only we could find a way to combine their names for a clever, Bryzzo-like nickname. Almoraez? Albier? Balmora? Ugh, never mind, just enjoy the show!!