There have been a lot of fun stories over the six weeks of the season, and one of the best has been the rise of Cubs outfielder Albert Almora. The sixth-overall pick of the 2012 draft, Almora has seen his share of ups and downs over his three-plus years in the Chicago system, but it’s only been up in 2016, as he’s hitting .333/.352/.482 with three homers and five stolen bases over the first 41 games of the year for Triple-A Iowa while playing outstanding defense in center field.
Obviously, these stats are great, but are they sustainable? To better answer that question, I decided to ask scouts who have seen Almora this year what they have thought about his 2016 campaign. As always, I was able to find both ends of the spectrum, so I asked two of them to give their thoughts on why they were high or low on his future outlook.
High Scout: “He’s killing the ball, and it looks sustainable to me. He has great hand-eye coordination, and he has a swing that lets him hit the ball hard the opposite way. I don’t think we’re talking about a batting champ in the future, but I think Almora can hit for average as a big leaguer, I really do.”
Low Scout: “He’s made some mechanical adjustments, I think. He’s shorter to the ball, and he’s making more hard contact. I just am not sold that his approach can work at the highest level. He’s not your prototypical hacker, but he doesn’t work counts, and unless you’re Jose Altuve or someone like that, it doesn’t work that well.”
High Scout grade: 55
Low Scout grade: 45
High Scout: “[Power] isn’t really part of his game, but it doesn’t really have to be. And he’s not a dink-and-dunk guy, if you throw him a fastball in the middle of the plate he’ll turn on it or put the ball into the gaps. I think you’re looking at a guy who hits 8-10 homers a year and gives you 25-30 doubles. There’ll be enough pop to justify playing him everyday when you factor in the above-average hit tool.
Low Scout: “Below-average at best. The swing is geared toward making contact, there isn’t any real power projection here. At best you’re looking at a gap-to-gap guy who runs into a fastball a few times a season. The Cubs have plenty of guys who will hit for power so he doesn’t have to be another one, but expecting more than a handful of bombs will lead to disappointment.”
High Scout grade: 40
Low Scout grade: 40
High Scout: “I don’t think I’ve seen a better defender in center this year, and he’s proof that you don’t have to be some superstar athlete to play center field, because he’s only an average runner. He makes every play in center you could realistically ask for, and he’s got a strong , accurate throwing arm to top off the sundae. Even if he ends up a below-average hitter with zero power, he’s a big leaguer because of the glove.”
Low Scout: “This is far from the industry consensus, but I think the glove is actually overrated. That’s not to say he’s not a good defender, he absolutely is. He gets good jumps in the outfield, and he’s made some spectacular grabs. I just have some questions about how he’s going to hold up long-term. He’s a 50 runner, and he’s not getting any faster. If he moves to right field he’d be elite there because of his instincts and his arm, but that severely drops his value for me. A very good defensive center fielder to be sure right now, but I do have some questions about how good that glove is going to be when he’s established.”
High Scout speed grade: 50
Low Scout speed grade: 50
High Scout arm grade: 60
Low Scout arm grade: 60
High Scout glove grade: 70
Low Scout glove grade: 55
High Scout: “As you can tell from my grades, I’m a big fan. The only concern I have is the lack of power, but everything else compensates for it. I think you’re looking at a ceiling of an above-average starting center fielder who can hit .300 and play Gold Glove defense, and the glove is so good that the floor is a fourth outfielder who can really help you in the outfield at any position.”
Low Scout: “I give him a ton of credit for making some adjustments and showing more with the bat, and I think at least in the short-term he’s a real asset with the glove. I just have a lot of questions about the long-term profile. If everything clicks I think you’re looking at a starting centerfielder who hits at the bottom of your lineup, and because of my concerns about the athleticism, I think the floor is a fifth outfielder.”
High scout OFP: 55
Low scout OFP: 40
I haven’t seen Almora this year, so it’d be irresponsible for me to comment on the adjustments he’s made in 2016. That being said, I can certainly understand where both scouts are coming from. It’s clear that he has offensive talent, and he really is a heck of a defender in center field. I also share the low scout’s concerns about the lack of patience, however, and while I don’t completely agree with the conclusion, I do get the long-term questions about the glove. Ultimately, I think you’re looking at a starting center fielder, but one who doesn’t provide a ton of value with the bat. That’s a big jump from what he was in 2014, however, and when you consider he’s just 22 years old, it shouldn’t shock anyone if he took another step forward.
Thank you for reading
This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.Subscribe now