Updated: Oct 11, 2020
For Minor League Mondays during the cancelled season, we are looking at some Cubs players and their development through the farm. Now Batting: Albert Almora Jr.
Albert Almora Jr. was drafted in 2012 as a high school outfielder. He was a first round pick, 6th overall. He had a solid glove and a good hit tool. Almora was highly ranked early on, as basically a 30th overall prospect in 2013/2014. That ranking slid a bit in 2015 and 2016 to 80ish range.
Almora spent about three and a half years in the system. There was a half season in rookie and A ball in 2012. He then spent all of 2013 at Class A Kane County. In 2014, he was promoted to A+ and spent most of the year there. There was a 36 game promotion to AA at the end. In 2015, he spent 106 games at AA again. Then in 2016, there were half seasons at AAA and the majors.
For a top flight prospect in the Schwarber, Rizzo, and Bryant vein, Almora's development lagged. Here's how it went down. Throughout all of his stops, Almora hit for a good average. His first season, he hit .321, and followed it up with a .329. SLG was decent, with .464 and .466. Walks, however, were an issue. In 2012, Almora walked twice in 145 PAs. In 2013 he walked 17 times in 272 PAs. Strikeouts were also low, as Almora swung at everything.
It was a similar story in 2014-2016. Almora walked 14, 32 and 9 times apiece. Meanwhile, his batting average and slugging dropped. In his next 3 years, he went from a .320 hitter to annual minor league totals of .270, .272, and .303. SLG went from .460 range to .400. The walks didn't improve, and his big upside in average and power dropped. Tougher pitching led to worse contact. He could get away with certain things at the lower levels, but the higher levels exposed issues.
Almora still made the big leagues, but he hasn't become the full time starter that some of the other guys have become. After 418 minor league games and 476 big league games, his stats are shockingly similar.
The first line is MLB, second is MILB. As it turns out, Almora's later minor league numbers are more similar to what he's gone at the big league level. As a contact first hitter, he's lacked upper tier power and still doesn't walk. He doesn't strike out much either, but can't be productive making weak contact. At times, his batting average spikes into very productive levels, but its usually because of an unusually high BABIP. Typically it's more luck than a higher exit velocity.
What's next? We'll see. Almora's still only 26 years old, but this lackluster performance has gone on for years. Almora has great tools, but has struggled hitting off speed pitching. He makes contact but doesn't hit the ball square. Perhaps there are adjustments that can be made.