Cubs

Why Cubs chose Albert Almora Jr. for playoff roster

Why Cubs chose Albert Almora Jr. for playoff roster

The Cubs chose Albert Almora Jr. in the middle of a 101-loss season, making him the first player drafted by the Theo Epstein regime. The Cubs used that sixth overall pick in 2012 on a teenager they saw with a high floor, someone who represented Team USA and grew up in South Florida playing year-round against elite competition.

Flash-forward and the Cubs are now a 103-win team, validating their belief in Almora again when they unveiled their 25-man roster for this National League Division Series against the San Francisco Giants.  

“He’s definitely not going to be afraid,” manager Joe Maddon said before Friday night’s Game 1 at Wrigley Field. “He’s definitely going to relish the moment. He’s looking for that moment. He’s not going to run away from it. 

“He’s young and he hasn’t been here very long. But when you talk to this fellow – you look him in the eye – there is no hesitation on his part. All of us felt very comfortable about putting him there.”

The Cubs believe Almora has the potential to someday become a Gold Glove outfielder. This is the next step in a year where he turned 22, made his big-league debut, got married, became a father and worried about his own father’s battle with prostate cancer.

[RELATED - Cubs set 25-man roster for NLDS against Giants]       

Almora split this season between Triple-A Iowa and The Show, hitting .277 with a .763 OPS in 47 games for the Cubs, but this move revolves around run prevention in October. Almora’s emergence sidelined Matt Szczur – who is five years older and has played in 140 more big-league games – for at least this playoff round. Szczur – a solid role player and another right-handed hitter – batted .259 with a .712 OPS in 200 plate appearances this season. 

“We just think that Albert’s a really good defender,” Maddon said. “He’s also been swinging the bat well lately. You can’t take that away from Albert, regardless of age, whatever, or how long one guy’s been here during the year or not.

“We just thought moving it forward – the kind of talent we’re going to need or skill set we’re going to need at the end of the game – Albert fit in pretty well.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]   

The Cubs indulged Tommy La Stella’s refusal to report to the minors because he has a specific skill, and he made this roster as a left-handed contact hitter off the bench. X-factor outfielder Jorge Soler (tightness on his right side) has been cleared for the playoffs. Two niche relievers with postseason experience (Trevor Cahill and Joe Smith) and a 15-game winner (Jason Hammel) didn’t get a spot on an 11-man pitching staff.  

“They’re not easy (decisions), but it also speaks to depth,” Maddon said. “The driving thought was whether you wanted one more pitcher or one more position player, so we just chose to go with one more position player. It’s a five-game series: Play, play, day off, play, play, day off, so your pitchers have a chance to regroup in those moments.”

Cubs Talk Podcast: Mailbag edition

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Mailbag edition

3:00 - Listener question: Espada or Ross? Kelly Crull shares some inside info on Joe Espada

7:30 - Kelly talks about David Ross' second interview for the Cubs managerial job.

11:30 - Listener question: Say it is Espada, do you see any way David Ross comes on as a coach behind Espada?

13:30 - Listener question: Could the team regress further due to a lack of familiarity with a new manager?

20:10 - Listener question: How hard will Theo and Jed go after Gerrit Cole? And if he's not available who else is?

23:30 - Listener question: Are you trying to extend Castellanos?

26:00 - Listener question: If you sign Castellanos are you also trading Kyle Schwarber?

28:45 - Listener question: Should the Cubs trade Kris Bryant? What would they get back in return?

33:00 - Lighting round: Will Nico Hoerner be the opening day second baseman and keep the job in 2020?

33:10 - Lightning round: Will the Cubs bring back Cole Hamels?

33:45 - Can we and should we clone Javy Baez so we have a fresh Javy when he retires, or is that unethical?

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

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Cubs reportedly had second interview with David Ross

Cubs reportedly had second interview with David Ross

The Cubs' managerial search is in full swing as they continue to line up intriguing candidates to replace Joe Maddon. In recent weeks, Houston Astros bench coach Joe Espada's name has been floated out as a strong candidate, with reports stating that the Cubs had already scheduled their second interview with the much sought after coach

While the fact that Espada is such a strong candidate in the midst of a World Series run has led many to believe he is the runaway favorite right now, it is still very much so a wide-open race. 

It was reported that while not extremely publicized, former Cub David Ross is believed to have had his second interview with the Cubs organization this week. 

Ross, who was extremely clutch in the Cubs 2016 World Series win, has an obvious and extended history with the organization. And while there are no concrete reports on the nature of any follow-up discussions between Ross and the Cubs, it was stated that the two sides have in fact at least had those expanded conversations.

As Kelly Crull hinted at in her tweet, Ross's position with the franchise definitely makes his negotiations about the managerial opening a bit more fluid, which may lead to fewer updates on his specific discussions with the team.  

Ross and Espada certainly sound like the favorites to land the Cubs' managerial opening, as our own David Kaplan stated that manager Joe Girardi, who has been connected to the Cubs throughout this search, looks like the front-runner for the Philadephia Phillies managerial spot. 

The 2019 World Series between the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros kicks off on Tuesday night. Traditionally you do not see MLB franchises make their managerial hiring announcements during the World Series,  so the Cubs' announcement could come on one of the World Series off-days, as early as Thursday. 

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