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.

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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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Ian Happ, Nico Hoerner and other Cubs start a podcast during quaratine

Ian Happ, Nico Hoerner and other Cubs start a podcast during quaratine

Looking for some media to consume during the COVID-19 quarantine? A couple of Cubs got you covered.

Cubs Ian Happ, Nico Hoerner and minor leaguers Dakota Mekkes and Zack Short launched a podcast Saturday named "The Compound." It's fitting, considering the four are still training at the Cubs' spring training compound in Arizona.

In Episode 1, the four discuss the best and worst parts of their days, their dream all-time lineups for a hypothetical World Series Game 7 and take fan questions.

#Content

The MLB season is delayed indefinitely during the coronavirus pandemic, but this is a new, unique way to keep up with some Cubs players in the meantime.

How Cubs’ Jose Quintana learned to speak English and more unique facts

How Cubs’ Jose Quintana learned to speak English and more unique facts

José Quintana is one of the more divisive players on the Cubs. The club acquired him from the White Sox in July 2017, sending top Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease to the South Side.

In the long run, that trade will be viewed as one-sided. But no matter how you feel about it, Jimenez and Cease were the price for a durable starting pitcher with a solid track record and team-friendly contract.

We all remember the trade. Let’s get into some lesser known facts about the Cubs left-hander.

1. Quintana is the only pitcher to make 10 or more starts for both the Cubs and White Sox in the same season. In fact, he made nearly a clean split between the Sox (18) and Cubs (14) in 2017.

Bonus: the Quintana trade was the first Cubs-Sox deal since November 2006. The Cubs acquired Neal Cotts in exchange for David Aardsma and Carlos Vasquez.

2. Quintana is one of 24 Colombian born players in MLB history. Others include shortstops Orlando Cabrera and Edgar Renteria, and starter Julio Teheran.

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3. On the last note, Quintana pitched for Colombia in the 2017 World Baseball Classic — the country's first appearance in the tournament.  He made one start, allowing an earned run in 5 2/3 innings in an extra innings loss to the U.S.

4. As a prospect with the Yankees, Quintana learned to speak English by watching Jimmy Fallon’s late-night talk show on NBC.

Come on, that’s pretty cool.

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