While thought of a World Series seems so distant for Chicago Cub fans, success may be coming quicker than expected.
Just over an hour away from Wrigley Field, where the Cubs suffer through another losing season, a big piece of the Cub’s future, 2012 first round pick(6th overall) Albert Almora is working on his game in Kane County.
As fans anxiously await the development of Almora, the only anxious moments in the Cougars clubhouse Sunday were present when Phil Mickelson was lining up his put on the 18th hole to win the Open Championship.
For a player that holds a lot of responsibility to help turnaround a franchise that has not won a World Series in 104 years, Almora goes about his business every game without feeling pressure. Along with only being 19 years old, Almora also has a major spotlight being the first draft pick of the Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer era in Chicago.
“I haven’t felt pressure,” said Almora, who went 3-5 on Sunday. “It’s awesome you know, its the most important thing to me. It’s something I’m very humbled by and blessed to be apart of.”
When Epstein took over as president of the Cubs shortly after the 2011 season, he noted that the organization was not united as a whole. Changing that was one of Epstein’s first priorities. At a press conference that October, when Tom Ricketts introduced Epstein as the new president of baseball operations, he coined the term “The Cubs way.” Since then, management from Chicago all the way down through the minor leagues ever developed a style of play that is instilled into every player at every level, including Almora.
“Just the way the organization runs,” Almora said. “It’s what they expect of you on and off the field. Overall, it’s like a big family.”
The Cubs and their fans were given a slight scare this spring when Almora suffered a broken hamate bone but he has put all concern to rest. “Everything’s really good. It’s 100 percent and it’s like nothing ever happened,” said Almora.
Since joining Kane County on May 22, the second rated prospect in the Cubs system and 16th overall according to Baseball America has hit .330 with an on-base percentage of .373. Along with the high percentages, Almora has shown consistency with his slugging as he has hit 13 doubles, four triples, and three home runs. With numbers like that a promotion could be lurking but that’s not a concern of Almora.
“I don’t really think about that. I just go out there and play everyday” said Almora, who has now had over 200 at-bats with Low-A Kane County. “Im just trying to have a plan and stay consistent. Trying to get a hit every at bat and it’s been working out lately.”
The thing that stands out most when watching Almora play is his natural instincts and knowledge of the game. Away from the batter’s box, Albert is an excellent fielder and has a very strong arm, both obviously great traits for a center fielder. Almora doesn’t have the speed of Jacoby Ellusbury or Michael Bourn but his great instincts and ability to read the ball right off the bat provide him with extra range in the outfield. Those type of things are something you can’t teach.
Off the field, Almora is just as great as he is on it. Despite Kane County’s struggles this season, the clubhouse is very loose and excited to play everyday. After Sunday’s game went to extra innings, Almora had a chance to end the game as he was up with the bases loaded and no one out. After working deep in the count, he was unable to catch up to a high fastball and struck out swinging. The next batter, Dan Vogelbach lined a single up the middle to win the game. The first player sprinting on the field to congratulate his teammates, Albert Almora.
“Me and Albert have been together before playing,” Vogelbach said after his walk off hit. “He’s a good guy and a player I definitely want on my team.”
Almora certainly has a long way to go until he’s roaming center field on the North side of Chicago, but the future certainly looks bright with this class act leading the charge of young players in the Cubs organization.
-In case you missed it, Chi City Sports was also able to interview the third ranked prospect in the Cubs system according to Baseball America
last year. Be sure to check it out and stay tuned as Chi City provides great coverage and interviews with the stars of tomorrow for the Chicago Cubs.