Having baseball back means finally having a wealth of fresh material to cover, though it can also be like drinking from a fire hose. As such, I wanted to throw together a quick-hit piece on a few of the smaller topics that came up during media availability in Mesa Thursday morning.
Albert Almora Jr. was one one of the worst hitters in baseball last season and his 78 wRC+ over the last two seasons ranks 189th in MLB (min. 750 PAs). Things would have looked a lot better had it not been for a 64 wRC+ in 2019, which led to a -0.7 fWAR that would have been the Cubs’ worst had it not been for Daniel Descaslo (-0.8). Almora’s poor production was rooted in several factors, but the tragic incident in Houston in which a foul ball from his bat struck a young girl in the stands may have triggered a steep drop-off.
Through that game on May 29, Almora was batting a perfectly acceptable .259 with a .308 wOBA and 88 wRC+ over 176 plate appearances. In the 187 PAs that followed, he hit .215 with a .237 wOBA and 41 wRC+ that rendered him completely unplayable. Almora admitted to media members Thursday that he was in a bad place mentally last season and that he needed time to “disconnect” over the winter.
“I feel more organized,” Almora said. “I feel like I know what I gotta do myself to get ready, and that’s really it for me.”
Albert Almora, coming off a bad year, says he wasn’t in a good place mentally at the end of last season. Also, he’s revamped his swing: “Its visibly different.”
— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) February 13, 2020
That includes a revamped swing that is “visibly different,” though fans will no doubt approach that with healthy skepticism. After all, Almora said pretty much the same thing last season after going back to the prominent leg kick that had been his calling card earlier in his career. More than anything he changes physically, getting back to a good place psychologically might make the biggest difference this season.
Hoerner sticking to script
The Cubs said they were going to make Nico Hoerner “hyper aware” of what he needed to work on this spring and throughout the season, and the message seems to have taken hold. Specifically, they want him to work on “the ability and comfort to grind out at-bats with two strikes.”
He spoke about that from his locker at Sloan Park, though his statements were almost identical to what he’d shared just a few days prior. He’s sticking to the script, which is another way of keeping his thoughts aimed in the right direction.
“The best baseball I’ve ever played in my life is when I’m focusing on long-term and development,” Hoerner explained. “And I think that’s when I’ve learned the most, when I’ve had the most fun, and I’ve helped the team win the most too. So I’m trying to maintain that, it might be hard at times this spring, but, yeah, do that as best I can.
Nico Hoerner held court this morning in Mesa… pic.twitter.com/3p3wprb4WY
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) February 13, 2020
Maybe there’s nothing to read into any of this, but it sure seems like he’s going to have to blow everyone away in order to break camp on the active roster. Not an impossible task, but a tall one.
Alzolay on recent nuptials
Adbert Alzolay just got married last weekend in what sounds like a spur-of-the-moment deal. That’s really got nothing to do with baseball, but it’s a fun part of the whole catching-up-with vibe during these first few days when players are reporting.
“When we got engaged last October in Vegas, we were talking about it, to get married and all that,” Alzolay explained to Mark Gonzales. “It just came out because I was like, ‘You know what? It’s going to be easier if we get married before spring training and you can just go anywhere with me. You know, it’s going to be easier.’
“And we just made it formal, so we went out to Sedona last Friday. We did our ceremony there in Sedona on Saturday and everything came out perfect.”
— Mark Gonzales (@MDGonzales) February 13, 2020
No word yet on whether Sahadev Sharma has acquired the products necessary to keep his new Jordans clean and fresh while he traverses the backfields at Sloan Park.