The 23 year old dynamic Cubs outfielder has been primarily a bench player this season, seeing the field with some consistency, but never in the role many of us would have liked. Is it time that should change? Albert Almora is hot right now, and that could be enough to get him a starting role. Prior to Thursday night’s game (fangraphs hasn’t updated at the time of this writing), Almora is on fire for the month of September with a slash line of .318/.318/.682, good for an OPS of 1.000 on the dot and a WRC+ score of 153. Those last two numbers, especially, are incredible.
So why isn’t he starting and playing on an every day basis? I guess that’s a question you will have to ask Joe Maddon. He will say something to the effect of “blah blah blah, splits vs right” to which I will say “He had 3 consecutive extra base hits (a double, triple, and a homer) with 8 RBI in 3 consecutive late-inning at bats against righties.” Almora’s splits are not nearly as drastic as a lot of players that see a ton of playing time. Sure, he hits lefties better, which you would expect from a right handed hitter, but he is serviceable against righties as well, which he has shown the last few nights in late-inning at bats.
Now, on to the defensive side. He’s fantastic. If you want to argue with me that Kyle Schwarber or Ben Zobrist are better all around offensive players, that’s fine. There is no denying that he is the superior defender. In fact, he would be the best defensive outfielder on most good teams, and the only reason he isn’t with the Cubs is because of Jason Heyward. Heyward is actually a great comparison for Almora in the field. They both have above average range, solid arms, and a knack for making incredible plays happen.
With how bad Schwarber is defensively and how rough Zobrist has been offensively this season, I’d like to see Almora out there as the everyday started in center field with Happ in left and Heyward in right. It seems like that is where we are right now, and Schwarber can make pinch-hit appearances and split time with Heyward and Happ occasionally. As for Zobrist, I think he is soon to be relegated to a spot-start role when Addison Russell returns from injury and is ready to play every day. Zo’s age has hit him hard this season and he looks like a shadow of the player he was last season. But in that darkness, Almora looks ready to shine.