UPDATE: It’s official, the Cubs have placed Soler on the DL with a hamstring strain and have called up Albert Almora to take his spot on the roster.
Almora is not in the lineup for Tuesday’s game but should be available as either a pinch hitter or defensive replacement. Initial reports are that Soler is expected to miss more than 15 days, though no details on the severity of his injury were immediately available. You can be sure the Cubs are going to take it easy with the big fella, which means Almora could end up getting a little more run than I had initially speculated.
The speculation has been thick since Jorge Soler went down last night (link includes updates on Almora being in holding pattern while awaiting news on severity of injury) in Philly, but we might have gotten confirmation that Albert Almora is indeed coming up to The Show. Well, if you believe this (since deleted) tweet from Dan Vogelbach, that is.
In case it’s gone by the time you’re reading this, Vogelbach’s tweet read: “Another one of my boys to the show. Couldn’t be happier for you man @albertalmora. Go do your thing up there.” David Kaplan was also reporting that the promotion was a done deal.
— David Kaplan (@thekapman) June 7, 2016
The Cubs haven’t officially announced anything, either on the results of Soler’s MRI or a roster move, but it certainly has felt like a DL stint and subsequent promotion were foregone conclusions. I’m really excited to see Almora up, but I have to admit that I’m a little surprised that it’ll be him getting the call. As I expressed last night, my thought was that Matt Murton would come up to be kind of an emergency backup.
Another popular opinion was that Munenori Kawasaki could come up for spot infield duty, with Javy Baez playing 3B on an everyday basis and Kris Bryant taking over a corner spot. The Score’s Matt Spiegel speculated that the latter will still be the case, which strikes me as odd. Not that he thinks it’ll happen, just that I agree with him and that I’m not a big fan of said strategy. We saw Kyle Schwarber make a brief stop in Chicago when he first came up, but that was a six-game AL swing that allowed him to DH between a promotion from Tennessee to Iowa.
In Almora’s case, a promotion to Chicago would seemingly be temporary and would be more about giving him a taste of life at the next level for a while. Maybe I’m wrong though and he’ll slot right into Soler’s role for a while. Here’s the thing though: what do you do if Almora comes up and goes on a tear and then Soler returns? Do you DFA Matt Szczur, who’s been really good in a limited role? Do you keep playing Almora over Soler? Or do you just stick with the plan to send the kid back down regardless?
If I’m making the call, I’m taking Door #3 all day. Not because I like it, mind you, but because it’s keeps more overall options open in the future. I don’t think there’s really any wrong answer here, it’s just kind of a tricky situation. I don’t want to see Almora called up just to sit the bench and be an honorary bat boy for a couple weeks, nor do I want to see the Cubs have to get rid of anyone in order to keep him up should he succeed right away.
And I do think Almora will succeed, but he’s not the kind of hitter who’s going to do very well in a spot-starting role. He’s got a little pop and nice gap power, but there’s also tendency for some weak contact. There’s also the matter of his lack of patience, which MLB pitchers are going to exploit the hell out of. Almora can be a very capable hitter at the highest level, he’s just going to need consistent reps to get there.
I’ve been saying for months that the ideal scenario would have been a September call-up with an opportunity to take the reins full-time next season, but life and baseball are rarely ideal. Almora has a chance to be a really special player, and I can’t imagine a ball falling in an outfield that pairs him up with Dexter Fowler and Jason Heyward. That’s how I believe we’ll see them lined up, too, with Almora in left and the other two in their standard spots.
I know Almora is an upgrade over Fowler in center, but there’s still a measure of deference involved, particularly if this ends up being a temporary arrangement. And it’s not as though Dex is some kind of schlub out there. He has been quite capable out there with the Cubs, and that’ll only be helped with Gold Glove caliber fielders flanking him. Maybe Almora will come up and stick for good, but I’ve got a feeling we’ll only be getting a small taste of what he can do for the time being.
Rest assured, however, that his time is coming. And soon.