Chicago Cubs: Could this be the end for Albert Almora?

Albert Almora / Chicago Cubs (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Albert Almora / Chicago Cubs (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Okay, maybe that’s a little harsh for the Chicago Cubs outfielder. But Albert Almora has been put on notice, productions over talent is the name of the game.

When the Chicago Cubs Ian Happ was sent down to Triple-A Iowa to begin the season, it was Albert Almora‘s time to shine. Happ wasn’t happy with it, but he took the assignment and worked to get back to the big leagues. Now, with Almora’s demotion? He’s going to have to do the same.

In his rookie year of 2016, Almora put up a respectable slash line in 47 games of .277/.308/.455 with a .763 OPS. He was quite important to Game 7 of the World Series, as he pinch-ran for Kyle Schwarber. He tagged on Kris Bryant‘s deep fly ball, and later scored on the Ben Zobrist double to give the Cubs the lead.

In 2017 as a part-time player, he batted .298 with an OPS+ of 100. Many thought he was perfect for the leadoff role, but Joe Maddon had other ideas. He placed Schwarber in the leadoff spot, given he was better at drawing walks then Almora. But he took a lot of called strikes looking. But surely he would get a chance the following season.

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But instead, Maddon tabbed Happ after an impressive spring training. And he didn’t disappoint initially, taking the first pitch of the season for a leadoff home run. But in time, Happ’s strikeouts were too much, and Maddon was forced to mix up the leadoff spot. Almora was one of the pieces, but never consistently.

This year, Almora wouldn’t have to share the limelight with Happ. He was the centerfielder and the leadoff man. It was his time to shine; only he didn’t. He was hitting at a slash of .243/.275/.396 with a .671 OPS. He was a -0.4 WAR, and his defense was struggling, as well. He’d put a sweet swing on pitches every once in a while. But other than that? He was more swing and miss than anything.

If anything, this should be taken as a learning experience for Almora. Less than a month in Iowa and he’ll likely get the call-up in September. He needs to work at his plate discipline, as pitchers have shied away from the first ball fastball since he’s aggressive on the first pitch. And I know AA is a great defender, aside from Jason Heyward. But he could be a Gold Glove-caliber defender. He needs to maintain focus and discipline.

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This isn’t the end for Almora, but it could be coming soon. Theo Epstein said there were going to be changes on the roster if things didn’t improve. Almora was sent down. That was his first warning. If he doesn’t produce when he gets back? That may very well be his last.