Though still a teenager, Cubs prospect Albert Almora has been hitting like a seasoned veteran for Mesa in the Arizona Fall League.
The outfielder, a first-round pick (sixth overall) in 2012, went 3-for-4 with a double and an RBI as the Solar Sox blanked Peoria on Monday afternoon, 4-0. It was the third straight win for Mesa, which holds a narrow, half-game lead over Salt River in the East Division.
Almora was limited to 61 regular-season games due to a broken hamate bone in his hand as well as hamstring and groin injuries. Fully recovered by the time the AFL campaign opened, he went 4-for-5, falling a triple shy of the cycle, in his first game and had hits in each of his first six outings before a 1-for-16 slump struck in late October.
"The pitchers are making adjustments, working on new pitches and things, and I've had to make adjustments, too," Almora said. "It's been really great being out here -- it's been a lot of fun and I've been learning a lot from the guys.
"For me the big thing is recognizing pitches and swinging at strikes."
That plan seems to be going well for the 19-year-old -- second youngest in the AFL by 11 days to Glendale's Corey Seager (Dodgers) -- he's fanned just six times while drawing four walks in 66 at-bats for a .318/.357/.515 line.
Batting ninth for the Solar Sox, Almora singled to right in the second inning, doubled to left with two outs in the fourth and delivered an RBI single up the middle in the sixth before lining out to center in the eighth. Though he won't turn 20 until mid-April, Almora has an advanced approach at the plate that allows him to drive the ball to all fields.
Another 19-year-old, shortstop Addison Russell (Athletics) also had three hits for Mesa, while infielders C.J. Cron (Angels) and Kris Bryant (Cubs) added two apiece to remain among the AFL batting leaders.
Cubs prospect Dallas Beeler improved to 4-1 for the Solar Sox, allowing five hits over five scoreless innings. Four Mesa relievers each pitched one no-hit inning to close out the shutout. The final 10 Javelinas were retired in order.
Right-hander Johnny Barbato (Padres) fell to 0-3 after giving up two runs on seven hits over four frames. Battery-mate Austin Hedges, who also caught Barbato at Lake Elsinore during the regular season, collected two of Peoria's five hits.
The Javelinas were just 0-for-1 with runners in scoring position while Mesa went 1-for-13.