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Is Albert Almora Jr.’s spring training improvement for real?

If so, the Cubs have a very valuable outfielder.

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Before 2019, Albert Almora Jr. appeared to be carving out a nice baseball career as a fourth outfielder. His defense was outstanding and he hit well enough to play a fair amount of the time, even though his bat wasn’t what might have been expected from a No. 6 overall pick (2012).

In 2019, though... ugh. Almora had the worst offensive year of his career (.236/.271/.381), despite a career-high 12 home runs. (Seems like half the league had a career high in homers in 2019.) His defense, previously stellar, also suffered.

This spring, Almora is hitting .583/.643/1.167 (1.810 OPS) with a double, two home runs, six runs scored and two walks. Yes, I am aware this is an extremely small sample size (7-for-12). Almora was reported as having revamped his swing over the winter and these few plate appearances seem to indicate it’s working. Here’s the home run he hit Sunday [VIDEO].

Compare that to Albert’s last home run of 2019, August 3 vs. the Brewers at Wrigley [VIDEO].

The stance is different. He’s more upright this year and seems to get more torque on the ball that way.

It seems possible that Almora and Ian Happ will wind up in some sort of platoon arrangement in center field. Manager David Ross is pleased with Almora’s changes:

“Albert Almora’s also having a great spring, and his swing looks really good,” Ross said. “His swing path looks phenomenal.

“I think we do get caught up sometimes in the everyday role, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing when we’ve got more than one good player at a position. The more good players, the better we’re going to be and the more depth [we’ll have].”

Ross is correct. If Happ and Almora both play up to their No. 1 pick potential — and it should be remembered both will turn just 26 this year — the Cubs are going to have a pretty solid offensive outfield.