MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs reached the National League Championship Series last season thanks in large part to their core of young talent.Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber and Jorge Soler helped bring a team few thought would make the playoffs to the doorstep of a World Series berth.Just a
MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs reached the National League Championship Series last season thanks in large part to their core of young talent.
Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber and Jorge Soler helped bring a team few thought would make the playoffs to the doorstep of a World Series berth.
Just a couple of years ago, when some of those players were making noise in the Cubs' farm system, another name was often linked alongside them -- outfielder Albert Almora.
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The sixth pick in the 2012 Draft, Almora hit .329 his first year with the Cubs' Class A club in 2013. At Double-A Tennessee last season, he hit .272 with 46 RBIs and six home runs.
Almora, MLBPipeline.com's No. 5 Cubs prospect, visibly enjoyed his time with the Cubs at Sloan Park before he was sent to the Minor League camp Friday morning.
"Having a lot of fun just being around the guys," he said. "I mean, it's the big leagues. What's not fun about that? Everything's the best about it."
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The signing of Jason Heyward, which crowded the Cubs' outfield, coupled with an unproductive spring at the plate, sent Almora back to the Minors. But spending this spring playing with veterans like Shane Victorino, whose locker was next to his, was invaluable.
"I can pick their brains and try to get better," Almora said. "We don't really go into depth about the game, just little pointers here and there."
Almora, who will turn 22 in April, is a year younger than power-hitting Schwarber, who hit .333 with five home runs during the Cubs' playoff run last season. Seeing a young player like Schwarber have success was motivating.
"I've always worked really hard and this just makes me work that much harder," he said.
Almora hit .194 this spring, but the production doesn't reflect the optimism the young player showed in his work in Arizona.
"I feel like of all the springs this is probably my best one," he said. "Just because the way my mindset is right now. I feel like I'm very comfortable, I'm very eager, I can't wait for the season to start.
"Last couple of years I've had more success, but it wasn't the swing or feeling that I was looking for. But now my outs are hard and I'm staying consistent."
Almora is confident he's on the path to success, even if the numbers don't necessarily show it.
"Baseball players, we're weird with that. We'd rather not see the results now in the spring and just work on what we have to work on," he said. "Confidence was one of the things I wanted to have coming in here."
Bill Slane is a senior majoring in journalism at Arizona State University. This story is part of a Cactus League partnership between MLB.com and ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.