Manny Machado and Albert Almora aren't actually related by blood, but they call each other cousins after growing up together in South Florida.
Machado thought of their Hialeah connection over the weekend at Wrigley Field, where Almora hopes to be an instant-impact player, the same way the Baltimore Orioles got a jolt from their All-Star third baseman.
"He's dying to come up here," Machado said. "He's had a couple injuries that have kinda held him back a little bit. But I tell him, 'You gotta stay strong. I'm going on my second knee surgery and you gotta stay positive.'"
Machado, 22, had just faced the reality he would need a season-ending procedure on his right knee, missing what Baltimore hopes will be a World Series run. But Machado still found time to talk up his “cousin” Almora, who is just getting his first taste of Double-A ball.
"He loves [being in the Cubs system],” Machado said. “He wants to help the team win. He's a very big team-oriented guy. He's all about winning and I think he's gonna be a great Cub someday. Hopefully, that day is sooner rather than later."
At the age of 20, Machado moved off shortstop and made the jump from Double-A to The Show, becoming an important piece to Baltimore’s surprise playoff team in 2012. He earned an All-Star selection and a Gold Glove last season.
Almora is 20 now, but the Cubs are in a different position and won't accelerate his timeline. Not with only 29 games at Tennessee under his belt.
A broken hamate bone and a groin injury limited Almora to just 61 games last season at Class-A Kane County. He had to come out of Tennessee's game on Saturday with a hamstring injury, but felt good enough on Sunday to collect a pinch-hit single.
Almora's numbers haven't been eye-popping this year. He entered Monday hitting .278 with nine homers, 59 RBI and a .701 OPS in 118 games split between two levels. But his intangibles are off the charts, a big reason why he became the first player drafted here by the Theo Epstein administration (sixth overall in 2012).
The centerfielder has shown maturity beyond his years, a baseball IQ Machado thinks Almora developed by playing up a level with the high-profile teams in Miami.
"He's an overall elite player," Machado said. "He's young, but he's the type of player that, eventually, he's going to be one of the best players in the major leagues one day.
"I think what makes him the best is his defense. He's one of the best defensive outfielders out there. He could be one of the top guys in the big leagues right now. I'm a big defensive guy and I think that's what's gonna get him here.
"Overall, he's just a great kid, a great clubhouse guy that everybody loves. He's a team guy. He's going to go out there and bust his ass off for everything and lay it all on the field."
Machado and Almora still talk on a regular basis, trying to help each other make it in a sport that has a way of humbling young players.
"He hits me up on how he's doing and the things he needs to face, the things he's feeling hitting-wise and just overall," Machado said. "The biggest advice I gave him is to just keep grinding every day. Give 110 percent of what you do out there.
"That will take you a long way. He's a tremendously hard worker who addresses areas of his game that need to be worked on. And I think that will get him to the big leagues."