The Cubs have only played three spring training games, and it’s dangerous to use spring results to predict regular season successes and 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 has struggled immensely at the plate for the last season and a half.
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 refused to blame his 2019 offensive woes on that incident, though it obviously played a part. He did admit that 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:
Here is a look at one of Almora’s 2019 swings.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) February 24, 2020
He felt he had to be perfect last year in order to be on time. Goal of new setup is to be more consistently on time and allowing him room for adjusting with the pitch.
“It’s more time to react. I’m calmer.” pic.twitter.com/BW7zKMrjKd
Albert Almora Jr. told reporters at the start of camp that his swing would be “visibly different” this spring. Here’s what we saw in his setup in Game 1: more upright, less open, reduced leg kick, less rotational in gather portion.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) February 24, 2020
“I was testing you. You passed,” Almora said. pic.twitter.com/4hKvBPI6tw
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.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Chicago Cubs easily on your device.