Albert Almora Jr. admitted at the start of camp that he wasn’t in a good mental space and had lost much of his confidence late in the 2019 season. That was evident in his cratered offensive production, but those who observed his demeanor recognized something was off with the normally jubilant Almora. After taking time away for rest and reflection, Almora arrived at Sloan Park with a fresh outlook and what he called “visibly different” hitting mechanics.
That’s nothing new for a man who’s undergone swing changes at an almost Heywardian pace over the course of his career, but what exactly is he talking about this time? We got our first live look during Saturday night’s Cactus League opener, when Almora displayed two distinct differences from his end-of-season mechanics.
The first, more pronounced change is a higher pre-pitch posture that includes starting his hands slightly higher. The second change, which is a byproduct of the first, is his load. Just before he begins the first pre-swing loading movement, he winds heavily on the back side and seems to have gone with a standard front foot lift rather than the more pronounced leg kick that made a reappearance last spring.
First batted ball in play of Spring Training:
Last batted ball in play of 2019:
Almora’s poor offensive production was enough justification for change in and of itself, but we don’t know the exact reasons for these new mechanics. Did Justin Stone, the Cubs’ new director of hitting, find something aberrant in the outfielder’s kinetic chain? Was something prohibiting Almora’s power potential from manifesting or was it simply a matter of being shaken up after his foul ball in Houston struck and injured a young fan?
The only way to know for certain is to hear from Almora himself, but maybe we’ll be able to deduce a few answers of our own as spring continues.