News item, after the Cubs’ acquisition of Cameron Maybin by trade Monday:
Hoyer: Albert Almora Jr. will be optioned to South Bend, with Maybin joining the MLB squad.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) August 31, 2020
I’m writing this appreciation now because it’s entirely possible Albert Almora Jr. has played his final game as a Cub. He’ll be in his second arbitration-eligible season for 2021 and that likely means a salary of somewhere in the $3 million to $4 million range (he had a pre-pandemic salary of $1.575 million for 2020) and it seems very unlikely the Cubs will want to pay that going forward. He’s a prime non-tender candidate.
Almora was Theo Epstein’s very first draft pick as Cubs President of Baseball Operations, sixth overall in 2012. Among players taken after Almora in that first round: Lucas Giolito, Corey Seager and Marcus Stroman.
Almora reportedly wowed Theo and the Cubs brass by telling them he wanted to do anything he could to help them win a World Series — this from an 18-year-old high school kid.
He hit reasonably well in the lower levels of the Cubs system, but once he got to the higher levels, his hitting was exposed a bit. He never walked much (career minor league OBP of .321) and didn’t have much power or speed. His strength was always his defense, which was top-rated at the time he first came to the big leagues in 2016, a year he split between Triple-A Iowa and the big-league Cubs.
And then he did exactly what he told Theo he would do — help the Cubs win the World Series. In the 10th inning of Game 7, after being inserted to run for Kyle Schwarber, Almora tagged and went from first to second [VIDEO] on a deep fly ball hit by Kris Bryant.
That turned out to be very important, as there’s no guarantee Almora would have scored on Ben Zobrist’s subsequent double if he had only been on first base.
But what Almora will really be remembered for is his great defense. Here are five minutes’ worth of terrific Almora catches:
Almora is also, by all accounts, a fine human being. Here’s an article about dog rescue efforts by Almora and his wife Krystal. And you will no doubt remember the raw emotions Almora showed when a foul ball he hit in Houston last year hit a little girl in the stands:
This FanPost posted earlier today delves into Almora’s numbers before and after that incident and concludes that Almora hasn’t been the same hitter since. I tend to agree with this from the post:
Whether this is a conscious thing or not, Almora seems to have changed his swing to pull less balls foul.
Albert Almora Jr. never became the player Theo & Co. thought he would when they made him the No. 6 overall pick in the draft eight years ago. As noted above, he might very well have played his last game in a Cubs uniform. I hope we’ll all remember him fondly for his World Series key play, his great defense and his being a good person. If this is it for him with the Cubs, I wish him well in the future. He’ll always be a Cubs World Series champion.