The Chicago Cubs continue to churn out potential impact players from their minor league system, as former first-round pick Albert Almora has been called up to join the big league club in the wake of Jorge Soler's hamstring injury, per MLB.com's Carrie Muskat. Tommy Birch of the Des Moines Register was the first to broach the likelihood of an Almora promotion were Soler to land on the disabled list, which he seemingly has.
Soler left Monday night's game early, and his history of hamstring issues made a DL stint seem probable. An MRI seems to have confirmed the injury, landing the 24-year-old on the 15-day DL.
The sixth overall selection in 2012, and first draft pick under the current Cubs front office regime, Almora hasn't had the same degree of success as some of his counterparts in Chicago's lauded farm system. Considered polished defensively but a project at the plate coming out of high school, Almora's star dimmed following a few injury-riddled, vacillating seasons, including a dismal 2014 campaign.
However, Almora appeared to rediscover some luster in 2015, as he hit .272/.327/.400 (105 wRC+) in 106 games at the Double-A level. He has continued to hit well this year, enjoying arguably the most promising season of his young career, hitting .318/.335/.444 (107 wRC+) in 54 games against more difficult competition for Triple-A Iowa.
Here's #Cubs Albert Almora's AAA base hit spray chart... Hits the ball to all fields pic.twitter.com/FvRfM7WQkk— Daren Willman (@darenw) June 7, 2016
Almora has maintained his strong-defender status throughout his minor league career, demonstrating a distinct ability to generate excellent reads in center field. His recently improved offensive performance is certainly promising, although he lacks much more than gap power, and still struggles with his passivity (his outlier 7.1% walk rate in 2015 has plummeted to 3.1% this season). In all likelihood, the Cubs will end up with a glove-first centerfielder with a fourth outfielder floor, and the potential for an above-average regular.
Almora does not seem poised to play a significant role with the Cubs in Soler's absence. Manager Joe Maddon relayed on the Spiegel and Goff show that Almora is "not going to come here to play every day." Tommy La Stella seems likely to inherit more playing time, which would push either Kris Bryant (who will start in left field on Tuesday) or the versatile Ben Zobrist into the vacated outfield position. Even so, it may not take long for Almora to take over in center field for Chicago, as incumbent Dexter Fowler is primed to reach free agency this winter.