(670 The Score) Before Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber or Ian Happ were drafted by the Cubs and well before the team became a perennial contender, Albert Almora Jr. was brought into the organization.
Theo Epstein made Almora his first ever draft pick as the Cubs’ president of baseball operations, drafting the 18-year-old outfielder sixth overall in 2012. Almora debuted with the Cubs in 2016, scored the go-ahead run in Game 7 of the team’s World Series victory later that season and has shown potential along the way.
But when will Almora get an everyday role with the Cubs? That question emerged at the Cubs Convention on Friday as he joined the Bernstein & Goff Show.
“You’re asking the wrong person,” Almora said. “I’m going to do as I’m told, and whenever I get the opportunity, I’m going to go out there and try to help the team win. But I’m not really focused on thinking about any of that stuff because it’s not under my control. My control is just go out there and play hard.
“I’m a team-first guy, as much as the competitor in me wants to be there everyday, of course — who doesn’t? Who doesn’t want to be out there playing with such great fans and part of a great team? But I can’t go out and bash other teammates or say something I’m not supposed to because it’s not about me. It’s really about the team and whatever they think is going to be best.”
Now 23, Almora hit .298 and posted a .338 on-base percentage and .782 OPS in 323 plate appearances over 132 games in 2017. The difference was in the splits, as Almora hit .342 with a .411 on-base percentage and .486 slugging percentage — good for a .898 OPS — against left-handed pitching. By comparison, his slash line against right-handers was .271/.291/.420.
To Almora, there’s no difference in his abilities between left- and right-handed pitching. He views the issue in comfort with pitch selection between the two.
“It’s a lot of once I get the experience, really, that’s all I need,” he said. “Get just more experience and get that confidence up against right-handers, and it’ll be history.”
The Cubs could rely on Almora for a role this season with less of a crowd in the outfield. Veteran Jon Jay remains an unsigned free agent, which could clear the way for a center-field platoon between Almora and Happ, the Cubs’ first-round pick in 2015.