Albert Almora Jr. was drafted because of makeup, baseball instincts, bat-to-ball contact, and top-tier defense. Notice I didn’t say power. While he never has been known for the homer, though, I could swear Almora is driving the ball more this spring.
Having been a resident of Arizona for a long time, I was able to watch Almora in rookie ball, Spring Training, and Arizona Fall League. This year, he came into camp looking bigger and more explosive to me. He was hitting bomb after bomb in batting practice and he’s already showing some pop in game action.
In addition to looking physically larger, Almora’s leg-kick stride doesn’t look as pronounced compared as it did in 2016. Take a look below to see the difference:
Watching the 23-year-old center fielder hit pitches farther nudged me to ask: “What does just a little more power do to Almora’s value?” So I calculated what average power actually does to his projected run value. Specifically, I altered ZiPS projections by changing his ISO from a projected .124 to .160, which is more or less the typical league average. As you can see, this was accomplished by adding a few more doubles and homers (Almora +).
Just bringing Almora’s isolated power to the league average improves his wRC+ to 99, which is three points better than the average for center fielders in 2016. In other words, a slightly more powerful Almora makes him an above-average offensive center fielder. When factoring in his defense, this version of Almora is worth 3 WAR.
Of course, this is all sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows. We don’t know whether Almora will hit for more power, and I might be totally off in thinking that he does look bigger and is driving the ball more (what do you think?). But let’s say I’m not wrong and he does actually dole out a salt-pinch more extra-base hits without sacrificing contact.
That would mean the Cubs have not only a top-tier defender, but also a guy who can more than hold his own at the plate.