Outfielder Albert Almora may have slipped a spot in Chicago's prospect rankings when the Cubs traded for Addison Russell over the holiday weekend, but he's making a case to join the shortstop at the next level with a string of hot performances.
The No. 4 Cubs prospect smacked a solo homer in the Cubs' 4-3 win in the first game of Monday's doubleheader and he added a two-run shot in the nightcap as Daytona topped Lakeland, 6-1, to complete the twinbill sweep.
"It was a good day, just because we won two games," Almora said. "You can't complain when you leave the field victorious. We're playing really good baseball. It is always nice to get two wins.
"Honestly, I'm really relaxed. When I get my pitch to hit, that's when I do damage. The first game, I sort of swung at whatever the pitcher gave me. That's how he got me out. When he made a mistake was when I did the most damage."
Selected by the Cubs sixth overall in the 2012 Draft, the 20-year-old is 15-for-29 (.517) with two homers, three doubles, a triple, eight runs scored and six RBIs in his past seven games, which have included five multi-hit outings.
Ranked 15th among MLB.com's Top 100 prospects, he hit a solo homer off Lakeland starter Jake Thompson with one out in the first inning to begin a 1-for-4 performance. In Game 2, he homered again in the first frame, this time a two-run dinger off Kenton St. John.
"It happened really quick," Almora said of the first homer. "He threw me a fastball inside, then a fastball away that I took. I was in a hole really quick and he left a hanging changeup. I try not to think about it, just see the ball and hit it and get my front foot down on time.
"[The second homer], he started me off with a fastball away for a strike, then he threw me a changeup for a call, then he came in with a fastball and he left it up a little bit. I was able to get my bat through the zone pretty good."
He added an RBI single to left field and came around to score in the fifth before being replaced in the field by Rock Shoulders in the bottom of the inning. Almora said his body was cramping up because he didn't drink enough water during the doubleheader. He said he knew he wasn't able to move 100 percent, but he was feeling fine after the game and would be able to start Tuesday night when Daytona hosts Dunedin.
The Florida native is in his third year of pro ball. He batted .321 with two homers and 19 RBIs in 140 games between two levels in 2012 and the prep outfielder posted a .329/.376/.466 slash line in 61 Midwest League contests with Class A Kane County in his sophomore campaign.
This year, Almora is batting .275 with 23 extra-base hits and 40 RBIs in 76 games with the D-Cubs.
"I never put pressure on myself," he said. "I try to put the ball in play and hit the ball hard. I just want to hit the ball hard. I'm just trying to get my front foot down and let the rest take care of itself. I'm not concerned with hitting home runs. ... If it leaves the ballpark, it leaves the ballpark."
Almora isn't thinking about a possible promotion to Double-A Tennessee, but he knows that friend Russell could be hitting next to him in the lineup. MLB.com's No. 11 prospect came to the Cubs in the deal that sent Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to Oakland for outfielder Billy McKinney and right-hander Dan Straily on Friday.
"I've played with Addi with Team USA and in the Fall League last year," Almora said. "We got along great and he's a great kid, a ballplayer. I'm excited he is in the Cubs organization and I'm excited to play with him and not against him. We spoke when he got traded and then the day after. He was happy with how everything worked out. He's excited."