My phone buzzed in rapid succession during the last Cubs home game of the spring. I knew this had to be texts from Cubs Insider’s Evan, Jon, and Corey, who assemble NSFW videos of in-game highlights faster than a Javy Baez tag. Indeed, the messages said that Albert Almora just cranked yet another long grand slam deep into the dry Arizona air.
The young center fielder has recently made a habit of driving the ball with authority, leading me to believe that we might actually be seeing Almora push past his power projections. While the former top prospect looks bigger than last year, has he also made mechanical changes that have led to this surge?
Let’s compare Almora’s last homer of the 2016 campaign to his most recent televised spring training homer. The first GIF below is a mammoth shot against Milwaukee during a mid-September game, and the second is a shot hit in Vegas against the Reds.
It’s apparent from watching these moving pictures over and over again that Almora’s balance is better, likely the result of two specific mechanical changes. First, the 22-year-old’s hands look slightly higher nowadays. Second, he’s no longer squatting as much in his stance and is now more upright and relaxed. The two changes are illustrated below with some visual aids to help us discern the specific tweaks.
The red lines in each photo run through Almora’s bottom bat hand directly above the knuckles. Not only can we clearly see that his hands are higher in the more recent image, but, based on the curvature of the red line around his knee, we can also see a more relaxed lower half.
I recently talked to Cubs Den’s John Arguello, who has watched Almora grow up before his very eyes in Arizona, about the uptick in power. He too has taken notice of the changes and believes them to be more than just a springtime fluke.
Consider that even average power could make Almora at least a 3 WAR player if his contact skills remain, which they should. But projecting the defensive stud’s value with added power is tantalizing. Pay close attention to the balanced stance and smooth swing the next time you watch Almora hit and I dare you not to get carried away imagining the possibilities.