GENEVA – Albert Almora just got to Kane County but he better keep his suitcase packed. Ranked as the No. 2 overall prospect in the Cubs' organization by Baseball America, Almora returned to action this week after suffering a broken hamate bone in spring training.
Almora’s injury proved more frustrating than serious as the speedy center fielder was forced to rehab in extended spring training before joining the Cougars last week on the road in Peoria.
The 19-year-old made his home debut Saturday and didn’t disappoint, finishing the doubleheader against Beloit 4 for 7 with two RBIs while playing a flawless center field as Kane County won both games against the Snappers at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark, 4-3 and 7-4.
The four hits put Almora’s average at .571, leaving one to wonder if the young prospect isn’t long for Kane County. But, Almora knows that the current Cubs front office doesn’t rush prospects, which doesn’t bother the 19-year-old a bit.
“It was awesome playing in front of this crowd – I can’t wait to do it again tomorrow,” Almora said of his debut at home. “I only look at tomorrow, that’s all I can control. My at-bats tomorrow, my fielding tomorrow – I just look forward to that.”
No matter how long Almora’s stay is in Kane County, the impact he’s had on the team can’t be understated. Cougars manager Mark Johnson has seen an immediate impact on his team's play since Almora arrived.
“He brings an extra added excitement to the lineup and the guys feed off of him,” Johnson said. “The way he goes about his business, the way he plays defense, his at bats – he’s picked the team up when the team needed a little push.”
While his Cougars teammates languished through a tough first month of the season full of postponements and cold weather, Almora was rehabbing and playing in extended spring training practices and games.
“Extended wasn’t bad for me. What was bad for me was not playing,” Almora said. “In extended, even though it wasn’t in front of crowds, at least I was playing and getting at-bats, and that’s what I didn’t like when I wasn’t playing.”
After rehabbing, Almora joined the team on the road in Peoria last Wednesday and immediately made his presence felt with three hits in a Kane County loss.
In Saturday’s first game against Beloit, Almora had three hits – including a pair of doubles – and two RBIs to go along with a sparkling diving catch in center as Kane County won 4-3.
Game 2 belonged to Rock Shoulders, who belted two home runs in support of Ian Dickson, who picked up the win in relief of Brian Smith with 3 1/3 scoreless innings. Shoulders now has 12 homers and is in the middle of what is now a dangerous lineup with prospects Dan Vogelbach and Almora hitting ahead of him.
What the Cubs loved about Almora was his maturity and love of the game, which was on full display Saturday. The young prospect said he genuinely isn’t thinking about playing with other elite Cubs prospects Javier Baez and Jorge Soler, who are in High-A Daytona.
“We (Baez and Soler) talk and text every once in a while but it’s nothing big,” Almora said. “We say it would be great to play together but right now we control what we can control right now. Right now it’s just a focus on where we’re at.”