The Cubs front office has been preaching the importance of the MLB Draft for the past few weeks, and when Theo Epstein took over as President last fall his mandate was that the Cubs will be a consistent winner built from successful drafts and player development.
On Monday night, the Cubs took the first step towards fulfilling that mandate when the Cubs drafted Florida prep outfielder, Albert Almora with the sixth overall pick in the MLB draft. Long on the Cubs radar as Theo’s scouting department have watched Almora blossom with Team USA, having been named the MVP in the under-18 Pan Am Games this past summer.
When the Cubs were on the clock presumptive top pick Mark Appel, the power pitcher from Stanford, was still on the board and I had wondered if the Cubs had seen enough of the right hander to be swayed from taking their guy Almora in favor of the polished pitcher.
I would have liked to been in the Cubs war room when they were making their pick to see if Appel was considered, or if they had their mind made up when they woke up that morning. Nevertheless, Almora is a potential All-Star centerfielder with high character and a good feel for the game.
At 6’2’’ and 170 pounds, Almora figures to add some muscle to his frame and fill out as he makes his way through the Cubs minor league ranks and the early comparisons on him are to that of Baltimore Orioles centerfielder, Adam Jones, who has the Orioles battling for AL East supremacy.
Labeled a five-tool player by experts, and possessing a smooth swing and great hand-eye coordination the sinewy outfielder can hit for 25-plus homers while using his incredible instincts and body control to cover a ton of ground in center field. His arm will be a weapon that opposing runners will have to be made aware of before trying to go from first to third on a single or attempting to score from first on a double.
Almora will be the answer to a trivia question years down the road when people ask who about the first player drafted under Theo Epstein’s watch in Chicago.
Now the Cubs will have to face questions from their fans about why they did not take Mark Appel, whom many had pegged going first overall to the Houston Astros. He went two picks later to the Pittsburgh Pirates, so the Cubs will be reminded often whether or not they made the right decision taking the precocious prep bat versus the polished power pitcher.
Theo Epstein and Cubs fans are hoping the play of Almora makes the decision to draft him sixth overall look like a no-brainer rather than the second coming of Corey Patterson.
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Patrick is a diehard Chicago sports fan and an avid college football fan, particularly the SEC. Patrick is the host of “The Wake-up Call,” a weekly sports show on Sportstownchicago.com every Wednesday morning from 8-10. View his show’s website here.