Cubs

Coleman looks to end season on a high note

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Coleman looks to end season on a high note

Monday, Sept 26, 2011
Posted: 10:59 a.m.

Associated Press

After a tremendous 2010, much was expected out of the San Diego Padres' Mat Latos heading into this season.

He finally seems to be living up to his potential.

Latos looks to continue his impressive second half when he takes the mound against the visiting Chicago Cubs in the opener of a three-game set Monday night.

Latos (8-14, 3.60 ERA) finished 10th in the NL with a 2.92 ERA last year and held teams to a .217 average - the fifth-best mark in the league. A strained right shoulder was largely to blame for his slow start this season, but he's impressed since the All-Star break, yielding three runs or fewer in all but one of his 13 outings.

The hard-throwing right-hander was at his best during Tuesday's 2-1 victory at Colorado, striking out a season-high nine while coming within an out of his second career shutout.

"I wanted him to have it," manager Bud Black told the Padres' official website. "He's getting to the point where those things mean a lot. He's pitched good in the second half. He's done his job. He had the fastball, slider and curveball working. The breaking balls were good."

Latos, 1-2 with a 4.96 ERA in three career starts in this series, won't have to worry about facing Aramis Ramirez, who is 4 for 8 with two doubles against him. Ramirez has missed the previous four games with a strained right quad and isn't expected back until Tuesday at the earliest.

The Cubs, 2-2 during Ramirez's absence, wasted a solid effort from Randy Wells in Sunday's 3-2 defeat. Wells went all eight innings while Chicago (70-89) scored fewer than three runs for the seventh time in 12 games.

Starlin Castro went 1 for 4, extending his streak of reaching base to a career-high 37 consecutive games. The 21-year-old shortstop is essentially a lock to become the youngest player ever to lead the NL in hits - his 203 are 12 more than the Dodgers' Matt Kemp.

The Padres (69-90), meanwhile, failed to get much going against NL Cy Young candidate Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday, falling 6-2. The top six hitters in the lineup mustered only three singles in 22 at-bats.

San Diego could have an easier time at the plate against Casey Coleman (3-8, 6.64), who takes the mound for Chicago. The right-hander is 0-3 with a 7.91 ERA over his last four road outings, during which opponents are batting .353 against him.

Coleman, though, is coming off his first win in nine starts, yielding one run and two hits over six innings of last Monday's 5-2 victory over Milwaukee.

"It's been a learning year for me, have a good outing and I would get too comfortable sometimes and the next outing three innings and you're out of the game," Coleman said. "So I was taking it inning by inning, out by out, and they played good defense behind me and that's the way it's got to be."

In his only career appearance in this series, Coleman gave up three runs and six hits in 4 1-3 innings of a 5-1 loss Aug. 18, 2010.

The Cubs, who took two of three from San Diego when the teams met in April, have won four of five at Petco while outscoring the Padres 14-6.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Behind a refined approach, Albert Almora Jr. is off to a hot start this spring

Behind a refined approach, Albert Almora Jr. is off to a hot start this spring

The Cubs have only played three spring training games, and it’s dangerous to use spring results to predict regular season successes/failures. Still, it’s okay to acknowledge Albert Almora Jr.’s hot start in camp.

In two games, Almora is 4-for-4 with a walk, double, home run, four RBIs, and four runs scored. That line is essentially equivalent to a single game in the regular season and could be turned upside down by the end of the week. But it’s a start for the 25-year-old who’s struggled immensely at the plate for the last season-and-a-half at the plate.

In his last 177 games (dating back to the second half of 2018), Almora holds a .235/.270/.347 slash line. The advanced stats paint an uglier picture: 58 wRC+, .261 wOBA and 52.2 percent groundball rate.

Last season was the most challenging of Almora’s young career. He hit .236/.271/.381 in 130 games with a 64 wRC+, .271 wOBA, -0.7 fWAR (all career worsts). On top of that, he was involved in a heartbreaking moment early in the season; an Almora foul ball struck a young girl at Minute Maid Park during a Cubs-Astros game in May.

Almora recently refused to blame his 2019 offensive woes on that incident, though it obviously played a part. He did admit he was in a bad place mentally and used this winter to decompress. Almora also used it to make some adjustments to his swing and the changes are clear as day:

Pre-2020:

2020:

As MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian notes, Almora is now more upright in the box and his stance is more closed. His leg kick is less defined, and he’s rotating his front leg far less than previous seasons. In short, he’s more direct to his swing and has more time to react in the box because he cut out a lot of his pre-swing movements.

Almora said Monday he’s far from where he wants to be, pointing out the MLB season is a 200-day marathon. It’s too early to tell whether his simplified approach leads to sustainable success.

Small sample size be damned, Almora’s made noticeable adjustments. That’s the first step in his mission to get back on track offensively.

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Two of the Cubs' best prospects made Keith Law's annual Top 100 list

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USA Today

Two of the Cubs' best prospects made Keith Law's annual Top 100 list

For those who follow such things, Keith Law's yearly Top 100 prospect rankings is always a highly anticipated read. What would baseball twitter even do with their time if they couldn't spend it vocally disagreeing with subjective lists? Having a handful of Top 100 guys is always a shot in the arm for franchises that maybe aren't doing a whole lot of winning at the major league level; when you know you're not winning a World Series, the debuts of these prospects are high points of the summer. 

There wasn't a whole lot of Cubs' representation this season, which isn't a surprise by any means. Only guys two made Law's list: Brennen Davis at 55, and Brailyn Marquez at 80.  

Law claims Davis has the highest upside of any Cubs' prospect, but isn't necessarily close to a debut: 

Davis is lanky and has barely begun to fill out, so there’s likely to be more power to come, while he’s already shown he can manage at-bats and use the middle of the field to get himself on base. Despite his 6′4″ frame he already has a very balanced swing, and the Cubs will just have to tighten up some mechanical things since he’s got such long levers. A former shortstop, he’s adapted quickly to center field; he projects to stay there and add value with his range. 

He also loves Marquez's stuff – comparing it to Aroldis Chapman's – and says it's the reason why he's team's best pitching prospect since Dylan Cease. You can see the entire rankings, which go pretty in-depth, right here.