Cubs System Sonogram Assesses Albert Almora

Al Yellon

Why do I listen to so much minor league ball? Because players like Albert Almora aren't with the parent club yet.

Right now is the "in limbo" portion of the minor league season. In most instances, playoff spots (which don't really matter anyway) are a stretch in the pipeline. A new batch of talent will be incoming. Many of the newly-signed players will be added to short-season Boise or Mesa. However, it isn't terribly difficult to tell which current players' jobs may be about to expire.

Some of the players are doing better than expected. Some are whiffing. Trends are starting to develop. Strengths and weaknesses in the system are changing, or sometimes not changing. In a month, Cubs minor league junkies will be staying up later to listen to Boise Hawks games. New draft picks, and ones finally ready for road trips will strut their stuff in the Northwest League. International free agents like Carlos Penalver, Jeff Baez, and others will become part of the discussion like Jeimer Candelario and Gioskar Amaya were last year. Hat tip to Josh for the extra work, later evenings, and tighter deadlines.

***

I was talking with BCBer Wrigley in one of the recent game threads about minor league games. Should you ever want to listen to any of the games in the system pipeline, they are provided free of charge through MiLB.com. Should you wish to listen in on Albert Almora and the Kane County Cougars, www.kccougars.com is the place to go.

wwwdaytonacubs.com is the home of Jorge Soler, Javier Baez, and crew. Mick Gillispie, who does spring-training webcasts with Len Kasper, calls the Tennessee Smokies games at www.smokiesbaseball.com. www.iowacubs.com is the home for the Cubs Triple-A affiliate. The incoming talent will be scattered among the above squads and the aforementioned Hawks at www.boisehawks.com. Each announcing team has its own charm, and all give a fair reading of the goings-on. Feel free to check in on a game in part or in whole should you wish. As good as Josh does at his reviews, a new ear to a game can be very helpful to the group as a whole.

How can that be? How can one ear add to the knowledge of the whole? About a week ago, Jorge Soler was removed from a game early. At the time, I was listening ti the Kane County game. Others were watching/listening to the parent club, or whatever. To my knowledge, nobody was listening to the Daytona broadcast. Had they been, they could have relayed what Robbie Aaron and his assistant that night had said in regards to his removal. I still have no idea what happened.

Years ago, I never would have imagined paying more attention to the minor league teams than the big league one. To be sure, most people never would spend time on such a pilgrimage. That said, a minor league announcer is far more likely to chit-chat on-line than Len Kasper or Pat Hughes, who have far more people paying attention to them nightly. The Cubs system is more competitive on many nights than the big-league Cubs are. The talent is in the pipeline, and it will be being summoned to the surface over the next few years. It is, though, entirely up to you. In short, I'm more intrigued by listening to Albert Almora in center than David DeJesus, and Jorge Soler in right than Nate Schierholtz. It's not the first time I've been considered a contrarian. Now, on to the sonogram's regular feature...

Three Down

Jair Fernandez C (former outfielder, Double-A Tennessee)

Fernandez was hitting just about as well as Rafael Lopez, but Fernandez was released on Saturday.

Javier Baez' glove at SS (High-A Daytona)

Baez changed to his red glove over the weekend. He has 23 errors on the season. Baez had a 10-game hitting streak snapped on Saturday, so he gets a pass on his hitting.

The Tennessee Smokies' bullpen

While Zach Rosscup has a WHIP under one, Trey McNutt, Tony Zych, AJ Morris, and Kevin Rhoderick have WHIP numbers over 1.5, mostly well over 1.5. Swingman Matt Loosen's is 1.9, after he started the year with two good outings.

Three Up

Albert Almora (Low-A Kane County) OF

I was putting this together during the first game of a Cougars twinbill. Almora had this spot nailed down anyway. What was his productivity that night, in a seven-inning game? In his first trip, he doubled to left. It was his fourth double in four games. In his next trip, he hustled the third baseman into an error, and took second on the play, where most wouldn't have made it. He then scored on another error, and wouldn't have scored without the bonus base.

Then came the fifth inning. Albert Almora passed Javier Baez today, for me. In the fifth inning. With one out with a bit of rain falling, the Cougars trailed by two with runners at the corners. Matt Olson looped a fly ball to center, and Almora went all out (as he always does) and snagged the ball on a dive before it landed. He then recovered quickly, and laid a strike to the catcher, doubling up the runner at the plate. The first two hitters reached base in the bottom of the inning, Almora, batting next, shot the ball through the teeth of a stiff wind, one hopping the wall, and tying the game. It was his fifth double in four games. Buckle up folks, this could be fun. As Cougars announcer Keaton Gilogly put it, talking about Almora's start, "Those are the kinds of numbers you get in a video game when you're playing at too low a level." As Wayne Randazzo (who is the Cougars main play-by-play man) said, "If Baez played the game the way Almora does, he wouldn't be in Daytona."

Almora closed out the game by reaching in the seventh with a single, and scoring the winning run. He scored twice, and drove in the other two in a 4-3 win. In the nightcap, he singled and scored, ending with a season slash line of .571/.625/.810. I will happily be watching Almora this week. His defensive routes are MLB-ready. He doesn't believe in pressure. www.kccougars.com, all.

Dustin Geiger (High-A Daytona) 1B

Between May 16th and 24th, Geiger hit .500. He homered twice, walked four times (two strikeouts) and drove in 13 runs. Geiger's future relies on his bat. He's hitting it well now.

Pierce Johnson (Low-A Kane County) RHP

Over his last two starts, both wins, Johnson has given up a run. He has walked three, and fanned 17. He can wait until after his next start to get called up to Daytona. I doubt the front office will value my travel plans when moving him up the ladder.

John Andreoli (High-A Daytona) OF

Over a current three game stretch, Andreoli has three hits in each game.

The Venezuelan Cubs (Venezuelan League)

They lost their season opener 22-11, and proceeded to show that wasn't a fluke, getting hit like the proverbial drum the first few games. After giving up 22, eight, 15, and 16 runs in their first four games (all losses), the V-Cubs have rebounded to win five of six. If the season were to end now, the V-Cubs would make the playoffs. 18-year-old Adbert Alzolay has given up three runs in ten innings, but since only one is earned, his ERA is a really cool looking 0.90. 20-year-old 1B Delbis Arcila hit his fourth homer Saturday. Yeah, he's old for this level, but winning by a run trumps getting pounded by 11. No, the V-Cubs games aren't carried on MiLB.com. One can be hopeful for the future, though.

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