Cubs hoping Albert Almora can finally take next step in his development

Albert Almora Jr. / Chicago Cubs (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
Albert Almora Jr. / Chicago Cubs (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images) /

If we’re being honest, it’s now or never for Cubs outfielder Albert Almora Jr.

Under Theo Epstein’s leadership, the Cubs have hit on almost every first-round position player they’ve drafted in the last decade. Of course, that group is headlined by former NL Rookie of the Year and MVP Kris Bryant – but you can’t sleep on guys like Kyle Schwarber, Nico Hoerner and Ian Happ either.

While Happ hasn’t achieved quite as much as someone like Schwarber or Bryant and the jury’s still out on Hoerner given he’s had just a brief taste of big league action, a lot of people aren’t sure where Albert Almora, another former first-rounder, falls in the grand scheme of things.

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Epstein took Almora with the sixth overall pick back in 2012 – and the Hialeah, FL native made his debut four years later as a member of the World Series champion Cubs at just 22 years of age. He left an indelible mark on that team, especially in the postseason. And he built on that over a large majority of the next two years.

From 2016 to 2018, he put together a .289/.326/.412 line – good for a 93 OPS+. Paired with his above-average glove work in center field, Almora looked like he was poised to hold down center field for Cubs in the foreseeable future.

But after the All-Star Break in 2018, his offensive performance cratered. He’s never been a guy who drew a ton of walks, instead relying on high contact rates at the plate. But when he quit doing that, his inability to work counts and benefit from free passes really exposed a huge weakness in his game.

Last season was more of the same. Almora got on base at a .271 clip and he fell out of favor with fans as he ranked as one of the worst offensive players in the game. But after a good amount of offseason work and staying locked in during quarantine, the Cubs believe he might be ready to put it together in 2020.

"“I think Albert had one of the best quarantines that you could have,” David Ross told “Everybody comes in here a little bit differently after that long break. Almora did a phenomenal job of staying ready. He’s swinging the bat really well right now. Running the bases. His full game.”"

When Almora is on, the Cubs are a better team. That’s no secret. Mentally, 2019 was a struggle for the young outfielder – so staying positive and focused will be a huge piece to the puzzle for him if he’s to show he belongs as a new era on the North Side nears.

Happ and Almora will share duties in center field this season. At a 60-game sprint, Ross will have to play the hot hand. There’s no margin for error and Chicago won’t be able to give guys time to work out of funks. Every team will have to attack each game like it’s a make-or-break battle which, in the end, could very well decide whether or not they’ll play in the postseason.

"“So you’re seeing some confidence roll out of him, and we all know Albert rides high on confidence. When he sees success, he becomes more efficient at the plate,” Cubs hitting coach Anthony Iapoce said. “So it’s good to see the things that he worked on in the winter, that he took into Spring Training and was really confident about [have continued].”"

Next. It had to be Hendricks over Darvish on Opening Day. dark

If Almora can finally get back to driving the ball and patrolling center with ease, the Cubs’ odds at playing into October will improve. If not, though, it may be the end of the line for the former first-rounder.