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Almora leads Cubs prospects in shutout victory

Beeler, Bryant contribute as Solar Sox maintain half-game lead in AFL East

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SURPRISE, Ariz. -- As a 19-year-old playing for the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League, Albert Almora says he is just trying to soak in as much as he possibly can.

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The Cubs' No. 2 prospect and Major League Baseball's No. 21 overall youngster has been a threat all season in the Mesa lineup, and he's played phenomenal defense at the same time.

"It's been a great experience, playing with the best and having a great time," Almora said after the Solar Sox knocked off Peoria on Monday, 4-0, in Surprise. "Being one of the youngest guys in this league, I know there's a lot to learn every day."

It certainly looks as though he's catching on quickly.

A three-hit day boosted Almora's Fall League average to .318, and he's slugging .515, the third-highest mark on the team. Almora, who finished the year with Class A Kane County in the Midwest League, also knocked in his 11th run of the season on Monday, waiting patiently on a 2-2 breaking ball and smacking it to center field for a two-out, sixth-inning single.

But Almora's biggest highlight on the afternoon didn't come at the plate. Leading off the bottom of the sixth, Peoria third baseman Patrick Kivlehan sent a rocket to the warning track in right-center field. Almora used a great jump to track down the ball and made a sliding, backhand grab on the edge of the dirt.

"I'm just staying calm, letting the game come to me and having a lot of fun," Almora said. "Once you try to do too much, that's when you start getting out of your game."

Almora wasn't the only Cubs player to shine in Monday's victory over Peoria, which kept the Solar Sox a half-game ahead of Salt River.

Kris Bryant, Chicago's No. 2 overall Draft pick this year, pounded a pair of doubles and walked twice, continuing his torrid Fall League campaign. Righty starter Dallas Beeler was also very sharp, working five scoreless innings, while allowing five hits and no walks.

"It's something to look forward to in the future," Almora said of playing with his fellow Cubs farmhands. "We're all working real hard to get to our end result, which is the big leagues. It starts here, and we're all having a great time doing it together."

The Solar Sox jumped out in front with two runs in the second inning, and the game wasn't in much doubt after that. Mesa pitchers baffled Peoria hitters all afternoon. Almora's sixth-inning single added some insurance, and the Solar Sox plated one more in the top of the ninth when A's top prospect Addison Russell doubled and came around to score on a groundout.

At 16-11-1, the Solar Sox could clinch the East Division crown as soon as Wednesday. That would earn Almora and his teammates a spot in Sunday's title game against Surprise.

"It's always good to be in a race," Almora said. "It's a long year, but now it's time to finish strong and whatever happens, happens. We're excited about what's going on."

AJ Cassavell is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.

Peoria Javelinas, Mesa Solar Sox, Albert Almora, Dallas Beeler, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell