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MLB Rookie Report: Albert Almora, OF, Chicago Cubs

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The Chicago Cubs have promoted outfielder Albert Almora to the major league roster, replacing Jorge Soler who moves to the disabled list. Almora was playing well for Triple-A Iowa, hitting .318/.335/.444 with three homers, 10 steals, seven walks, and 29 strikeouts in 214 at-bats.

We wrote about Almora back in early April when a reader asked why I didn't put him on my Top 175 prospects list. The entire report from April is reproduced below the **** line.

To be completely honest, while the slash line from Des Moines is pretty, the overall balance of factors for Almora hasn't really changed much since April. He's an excellent fielder and a danger on the bases, but he is a line drive hitter without huge home run power who doesn't draw many walks, making his OBP very dependent on his batting average. If he can hit .300 in the majors, great, but what if he hits just .250?

Despite that concern, Almora can be expected to have a long major league career given his age but in the short run the factors that may make him valuable for a real team may not translate into all fantasy contexts. Just keep in that in mind if you're a fantasy owner. If you are thinking more in real baseball terms, you should enjoy Almora's smoothness in the field.

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There was a comment from a reader last week regarding the absence of Chicago Cubs outfield prospect Albert Almora on the Top 175 MLB prospects for 2016 list. Almora was mentioned in the "in the picture" section, which means he did have a case and was considered for the list, but I though it was worth taking a deeper look at my latest thinking on Almora.

First, the comment from the 2016 Baseball Prospect Book.

Albert Almora, OF, Chicago Cubs
Bats: R Throws: R HT: 6-1 WT: 180 DOB: April 16, 1994

2013: Grade B+; 2014: Grade A-; 2015: Grade B

Reports on Albert Almora have not changed. His tools are average to slightly above average across the board. He is an excellent defensive outfielder. He makes contact and avoids strikeouts. He has raw power, but his actual in-game power production has been limited due to a line drive swing and impatient hitting approach. He continues to impress observers with his work ethic and makeup, but at this point there is no objective evidence that he’ll turn into a star. His production the last two seasons has been somewhat disappointing (wRC+ 100 in 2014, 105 in 2015). All that said, Almora is still just 22 and his ability to make contact gives him an edge. The power may yet come, and the glove and makeup help buy some additional time. Grade B-.

ADDITIONAL COMMENTARY

The reader who made the comment about Almora's ranking noted that he was very hot in the second half of the season. Indeed that is quite true: he hit just .244/.285/.340 in his first 55 games for Double-A Tennessee but a much more robust .301/.370/.464 in 51 games in the second half. He was especially hot in August at .352/.413/.504.

The problem is that the first half of the 2015 season still counts and I'm not aware of any drastic changes regarding his swing in his scouting reports in August. He was said to be more selective in his hitting approach late in the year and this certainly helped, but the swing itself hadn't seemed to change much mechanically.

This spring he hit an anemic .233/.243/.302 in 43 major league spring training at-bats. Yes, spring training is funky, but these results fit the "no significant changes" narrative better than the "he became a different player last August" meme. Reports from spring training continue to emphasize his excellent defensive ability while noting a level swing that doesn't loft the ball for distance power. Almora is heading to Triple-A Iowa to open the season and I hope to get to Des Moines early and file an in-person report.

Overall, his balance of strengths and weaknesses keeps him in the Grade B- range for me, somewhere in the 175-200 range. He's a solid prospect and we should expect him to be a valuable asset, but without more consistent power production over a period of more than 50 games, he looks more like a very good role player or lower-case regular than star-caliber talent.