Cubs News: David Ross benches Albert Almora against a left-handed pitcher
Albert Almora isn’t starting against a lefty. Is this the end of his Cubs tenure?
Everyone knows about Albert Almora‘s struggles at the plate. He’s been one of the least productive offensive players in baseball for the better part of two years, which led to his being largely relegated to platoon match-ups. But now, the Cubs outfielder is even on the bench against left-handed starting pitching.
After the Cubs took a two-game series at Wrigley Field, they’ll head to Kansas City for two more contests against the Royals. Mike Matheny is going with young southpaw Kris Bubic, who is making just his second big league start on Wednesday. But instead of Almora, it’s rookie Nico Hoerner who’s getting the nod in center field.
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Hoerner, who has all of one career game in center, getting the edge over Almora is, at the very least, a strong warning sign for the Cubs’ 2012 first-round pick. It looks like, at long last, we may be nearing the end of the line with Almora – who was once regarded as a potential cornerstone for the team.
First-year manager David Ross has earned plenty of praise in the first few weeks of his inaugural go-round as the top dog in the dugout. He’s had a short leash with a struggling Craig Kimbrel, hasn’t let a struggling bullpen bury itself and, by and large, has been consistent with his lineup – pressing the right buttons and pulling the right levers.
Now, he’s making it clear yet again – he’s going to play the hot hands, regardless of stature or the past. Sure, Almora was an integral part of the Cubs winning the World Series four years ago. But that can’t be the crutch you lean upon when you’re filling out the lineup card every day. The writing has been on the wall for awhile – and with Tuesday’s benching, action has finally come to fruition.
Since the start of 2019 (so this is removing is absolutely abysmal final month of 2018), based on OPS+, Almora is 33 percent below league average as an offensive player. His .274 OBP is completely unacceptable, especially in a 60-game sprint where a single game carries more significance than ever before.
Given the likes of Jason Kipnis (310 wRC+) and David Bote (165 wRC+) on hand to cover second base and Hoerner’s versatility to play second and center, along with Ian Happ (177 wRC+), the Cubs have the depth to overcome the loss of Almora who, at this point, is a late-inning defensive replacement for someone like Steven Souza.
Who knows if this is the beginning of the end for Albert Almora on the North Side. But David Ross is playing to win – and right now, there’s no way you can put your best foot forward with him penciled into the starting lineup, regardless of who’s on the mound.