Cubs

Cubs' Albert Almora Jr. is off to a hot start in spring training

Cubs' Albert Almora Jr. is off to a hot start in spring training

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:

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.

RELATED: David Ross is wasting no time with Cubs' rotation competition

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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Cubs' Jason Kipnis sets up unique fundraiser for COVID-19 relief

Cubs' Jason Kipnis sets up unique fundraiser for COVID-19 relief

With baseball suspended indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Jason Kipnis is using some of his free time to help those in need.

Kipnis announced Thursday he's set up a Cameo account and will donate portions of the proceeds to coronavirus relief and medical workers. Cameo is a video-sharing platform where people can book personal shout-outs from celebrities, athletes, influencers and more.

RELATED: Jason Kipnis airs concerns over challenges players will face when MLB returns

The Cubs second baseman added supporters can request where he donates the proceeds.

Kipnis joins Cubs Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins in using Cameo to help those affected by the coronavirus.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Chicago Cubs easily on your device.

Kris Bryant's goal for his son, other trivia facts about Cubs third baseman

Kris Bryant's goal for his son, other trivia facts about Cubs third baseman

Based on his current trajectory, Kris Bryant will go down as one of the best third basemen in Cubs history. In five seasons, the 28-year-old has made three All-Star teams, won Rookie of the Year by a unanimous vote and taken home National League MVP honors.

As he continues adding to his accomplishments on the field, here are a few things you should know about Bryant off of it.

1. Bryant grew up in Las Vegas and played baseball with the Phillies’ Bryce Harper and Rangers’ Joey Gallo, dating back to when he was nine years old.

2. Bryant’s dad, Mike, played professionally in the Red Sox organization. As a minor leaguer, Mike received hitting instructions from Boston legend Ted Williams.

3. In high school, Bryant was named his graduating class’ salutatorian. But he passed the honor onto a classmate with a similar GPA because he wanted her to have the recognition.

4. Bryant married his high school sweetheart, Jessica, in January 2017. They started dating as sophomores and are expecting their first child this month.

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Mr. & Mrs. Bryant!! 📸: @j.annephotography

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5. Bryant took guitar lessons this offseason and said at his introductory press conference this spring that his kid will be a rock star. He noted that Mike will probably push the kid to baseball, though.

Maybe we'll see the first simultaneous rock star baseball player?

RELATED: Top 10 moments of Kris Bryant's Cubs career

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