As the Chicago Cubs bring in a nice group of September call-ups for the playoff push, Albert Almora is the most important name re-joining this team
For the Chicago Cubs, September is arguably the best month of the regular season. Teams get the opportunity to flaunt some of their organizational depth, as roster sizes expand from 25 to 40. The Cubs bring an impressive fleet onto the MLB roster, highlighted by names such as Ben Zobrist, Daniel Descalso, Robel Garcia, and Albert Almora. Each player is crucial to this team’s postseason chances, but none more important than Almora.
Sure, Zobrist’s return is highly anticipated, and having a bullpen arm step up is key. I’m not arguing that, but having Almora play up to the level we know he can play at is more important than anything else.
It’s easy to forget Almora was the sixth overall pick in the 2012 draft, the same year Carlos Correa was taken number one. The upside is there, as Almora owns one of the best gloves in center field and a bat that we saw hit .298 in 2017. With so much potential, watching him hit .241 with a sub-700 OPS, and .274 on-base-percentage has been nothing short of painful to watch.
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The Cubs can’t rely on Zobrist to be the guy he’s been in the past, and as impressive as it would be to see him do big things down the stretch, it’s not a very realistic expectation. Garcia has done great things in the minors, but he can’t be counted on to be an X-factor with his high strikeout rate and struggle with off-speed pitches.
Descalso has been a nightmare, and we can only watch him with caution at this point. I do believe these three bats can make a positive impact on this team, but to count on them would be risky.
Almora is capable, and his presence is so important to this outfield. Happ has come back down to earth since his hot return, Jason Heyward has found himself in the longest hitless streak of his career, and Kyle Schwarber has shown he’s at his best when he has an opportunity to rest.
With this group struggling, having Almora step up would be massive. Getting him back out there at a high level in center next to Castellanos in right would really open things up. Letting Schwarber and Happ flip flop in left, and letting Heyward re-group before he hops back into center is just what this group needs.
Watching a 23-inning scoreless streak from this offense shows us that the opportunity for a 2018-like collapse is not out of the question. Having a “former” core member return to glory would give this group the push they need to catch the Cardinals.
In a crowded playoff race, the Cubs have to dig their feet in and make sure that at worst, they allow themselves to play in a Wild Card Game. The depth of this group has been questioned at times, and now this team has a chance to prove how talented they are top-to-bottom. Almora is the centerpiece of the September-call-ups, and he will take this team where it needs to go.