Chicago Cubs first-round draft pick (6th overall), Albert Almora, gave fans a glimpse of the player he is going to be in his professional debut on Monday night. After reaching on an error in his first at-bat, then lining out to the pitcher in his second, Almora launched a two-run home run over the left field fence to give the AZL Cubs a 4-2 lead in the top of the fifth inning, a lead they wouldn’t relinquish as they won 7-3 against the AZL Brewers.
The 6’-2”, 190-pound right-hander was being targeted by Theo Epstein in the months leading up to the draft. His across-the-board tools, baseball savvy and leadership beyond his years had scouts drooling and declaring him the most polished prep hitter in the draft. As a senior playing for Mater HS in Hiahleah, Florida, he hit .603 (44-for-73) over 31 games with 13 doubles, five triples, six home runs, 34 RBI and was 24-for-25 in stolen base attempts. He also only struck out three times and had a slash line of .667/1.164/1.831.
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Almora also starred on the 2011 U18 Team USA squad that won the gold medal at the Pan Am Championships in Cartegena, Colombia. He was named MVP of the tournament as he went 16-for-38 (.421) and led the team with 11 runs, five doubles, 11 RBI and nine stolen bases over nine games.
Almora becomes the eighth hitter, and 11th player overall, to make his pro debut this season from that talent-laden team. While pitchers Walker Weickel, Nick Travieso and Chase DeJong are being brought along slowly as they are coming off their senior seasons with high inning counts, the hitters are getting everyday playing time and making the most of it .Their totals over 165 combined games, as well as individual stats, are as follows:
.321 (193-for-604), 125 R, 39 2B, 11 3B, 27 HR, 117 RBI, 20 SB, 96 BB, .421/.555/.976
Joey Gallo, 3B, Rangers, RD-1A PK-38
26 G, .340, 33 R, 8 2B, 1 3B, 12 HR, 30 RBI, 4 SB, 25 BB, .541/.864/1.405
The 6’-5”, 220-pound left-hander has been the best player from the entire draft so far, showing off his incredible power, as well as an advanced approach at the plate. He is hitting .435 against lefties and leads the AZL in runs, HR, SLG and OPS.
Addison Russell, SS, Athletics, RD-1 PK-11
20 G, .443, 26 R, 4 2B, 4 3B, 4 HR, 22 RBI, 8 SB, 14 BB, .538/.747/1.285
Over 13 July games, Russell is hitting .491 (28-for-57) with four doubles, two triples, three home runs, 19 RBI and seven stolen bases. Regarded as having some of the best bat speed in the draft, he has shown the ability to catch up to any pitch and use his raw power to drive the ball to all fields.
David Dahl, CF, Rockies, RD-1 PK-10
30 G, .353, 22 R, 8 2B, 4 3B, 3 HR, 23 RBI, 7 SB, 11 BB, .415/.563/.978
Over his current seven-game hitting streak, the 6’-2”, 185-pound left-hander is 14-for-29 (.483) with nine runs and six RBI. One of the purest hitters in the draft, Dahl has been showing his five-tool potential that some have compared to Mike Trout.
Jesse Winker, OF, Reds, RD-1A PK-49
29 G, .337, 17 R, 7 2B, 1 3B, 0 HR, 16 RBI, 0 SB, 25 BB, .477/.429/.906
At 6’-3” and 200 pounds, Winker has enormous power from the left side. Although he hasn’t gone yard yet, he is finding the gaps with ease and it is only a matter of time before they start going over the fence. His 25 walks on the season show that he isn’t pressing and taking what the pitchers are giving him – not much to hit.
Carson Kelly, 3B, Cardinals, RD-2 PK-86
27 G, .231, 10 R, 4 2B, 0 3B, 6 HR, 12 RBI, 0 SB, 4 BB, .262/.442/.704
The 6’-2”, 200-pound slugger has been on fire over his last eight games, hitting .276 with three doubles, four home runs and eight RBI for Johnson City of the Appalachian League. Kelly also starred on the mound in high school and his strong, accurate arm, along with the immense power, will allow him to stick at the hot corner.
Gavin Cecchini, SS, Mets, RD-1 PK-12
27 G, .242, 11 R, 6 2B, 1 3B, 0 HR, 8 RBI, 1 SB, 11 BB, .328/.326/.654
Cecchini has struggled a bit in the early going, but he has all the tools, as well as a very high baseball IQ, to be an all-star down the line. He hit .467 with seven home runs, 32 RBI, 31 stolen bases and had a .527 OBP as he lead Barbe HS to a state championship this season, mostly using a wooden bat. Mets fans should be excited about his potential.
Nelson Rodriguez, C, Indians, RD-15 PK-473
5 G, .278, 6 R, 2 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 0 SB, 6 BB, .458/.556/1.014
Rodriguez has shown the power and patience early on that have drawn comparisons to another catcher with the big league team, Carlos Santana. At 6’-2” and 220-pounds, the 18-year old is a big target behind the plate with above average defensive skills and a strong arm.