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Almora hits first Midwest League homer06/09/2013 12:50 AM ET
By Jake Seiner / Special to MLB.com
Albert Almora's task list for his first full professional season is a short one.
"To be honest, I just want to stay healthy," he said. "That's my main goal for this year."
Almora missed the beginning of the season with a broken hamate bone, then missed more games in late May after suffering leg cramps. Otherwise, the Cubs' No. 2 prospect is dominating the Midwest League. He hit his first homer of the season Saturday night, going 4-for-5 with four RBIs and raising his average to .435 in Class A Kane County's 15-1 romp over Cedar Rapids.
"I'm just happy I'm healthy right now," Almora said. "I'm trying to do something every day to help the team win. I want to continue to do that for the rest of the year."
Almora, MLB.com's 37th overall prospect, went yard in the fifth inning, launching a three-run blast off a fastball from Cedar Rapids reliever Kaleb Merck.
"I was just able to keep my hands going through the ball and made good contact," he said.
When he's been on the field, Almora's been attacked with a barrage of inside fastballs. He suspects hurlers are pitching him that way because of his open stance, and although he's confident in his abilities to stay inside those fastballs, it's the first time he's been consistently attacked in that way.
"I'm making adjustments every day," the 19-year-old center fielder said, "learning to face different pitches and a different ways of pitching. I'm trying to go out there with a plan and try to have a good day.
"I'm confident in my ability to play baseball overall. I just go up there thinking about trying to get a pitch to hit and attack."
Almora has hit well at every level since the Cubs selected him sixth overall in last year's Draft. He batted .321 with a.795 OPS in 33 games between the Rookie-level Arizona League and short-season Northwest League last summer.
He broke the bone in his hand in Spring Training, however, and missed the first month of the season. Hamate bone injuries are notoriously difficult for hitters to return from, but Almora has encountered few issues.
After Saturday, his OPS rests at 1.051. He's driven in eight runs and scored 12 while registering seven extra-base hits.
"I'm feeling 100 percent," he said. "Sometimes I'll have days when it's a little sensitive, but for the most part, it feels good. It has no effect on my swing anymore."
The Cougars had several contributors in Saturday's rout, including top prospects Gioskar Amaya, Dan Vogelbach and Jeimer Candelario.
Amaya, ranked 17th in the Cubs' system, homered and scored a pair of runs out of the leadoff spot. Vogelbach, the team's No. 11 prospect, belted his 10th homer of the season and fifth and his last 11 games. Candelario, ranked 13th in the system, also homered and walked twice on a three-hit night.
For the Kernels, Twins No. 2 prospect Byron Buxton collected three hits and drove in a run. The 19-year-old center fielder is batting .450 with a 1.052 OPS in his last 10 games.