Albert Almora Jr. has been one of the most highly touted prospects in the Chicago Cubs’ system, combining a stellar glove with a solid approach at the plate throughout his big league career.
In his second season, Almora got caught in a bit of a logjam in the outfield, as Joe Maddon and the Cubs attempted to get as many guys playing time as possible.
With that in mind, here’s our look at how he did in 2017, and what we can expect from him moving forward into next season.
Almora had a respectable 2017 season for the Cubs, hitting just a shade under .300 with eight home runs and 46 RBI in 323 plate appearances. He was used primarily as a starting center fielder against left handed pitching, but often was the odd man out as Kyle Schwarber, Jon Jay, Ian Happ, and Jason Heyward got the bulk of the playing time in the outfield.
Almora is under team control for the next two seasons, and won’t be arbitration eligible until the year 2020. He won’t hit unrestricted free agency until 2023.
2017 Chicago Cubs: A Year In the Life of the Champs
There was a very good reason that Maddon used Almora as a platoon-type player. His batting average against left-handed pitchers was 71 points higher than his average against righties (.342 to .271) and his on-base percentage was a staggering 120 points better against lefties, as he posted a very strong .411 OBP vs. southpaws.
He also drew more walks in 73 fewer plate appearances, struck out 19 fewer times, and posted an OPS that was nearly 200 points higher than it was against right-handed hurlers. Those are some stark differences, and while they mask the improvements that he made against righties, it’s pretty obvious why he was used the way that he was.
Best Game of 2017:
Even though he hit a home run against Clayton Kershaw in the NLCS, Almora’s best game of the season came in a contest he didn’t even start. With the Cubs already well ahead of the Mets in a game on Sept. 13, Almora came into the contest and promptly hit a three-run home run off of Kevin McGowan, and then followed that up with a bases-clearing triple against Jamie Callahan that plated three more runs an inning later.
Almora ended up with six RBI in just two at-bats, and he helped lead the Cubs to a 17-5 triumph.
2018 Free Agency: Cubs Hitting the Market
Outlook for 2018:
One of the biggest questions the Cubs will face this offseason is how they plan to deal with their glut of outfielders. They currently have five players that regularly play the outfield, with Schwarber no longer able to play catcher on a regular basis and with Happ more likely to play center field than second base with Ben Zobrist and Javier Baez remaining on the team.
Of course, a trade could change the equation in that regard, and Almora has both been linked to possible trades to acquire starting pitching and with increased playing time by virtue of another piece being moved, so it’s hard to hone in on exactly what his role will be next year.
For now, the assumption has to be made that he will continue to be a mostly platoon player who plays against lefties and comes in to play defense in the late innings of games, but that could change based on the make-up of next year’s roster.