Almora leads Mesa's charge as Cubs stars shine
Bryant, Soler chip in with impressive performances in Solar Sox rout
Albert Almora wasted no time making his impact felt in the Arizona Fall League. Playing his first game with Mesa on Wednesday, Almora, the Cubs' No. 2 prospect, led off the bottom of the first inning with a first-pitch home run off right-hander Michael Lorenzen.
Almora's blast was the beginning of a rout, as Mesa beat Glendale, 13-3, at HoHoKam Park.
Almora did not appear on Opening Day. He made the most of his start Wednesday in center field, going 4-for-5 with three RBIs and three runs. He fell a triple short of the cycle.
"This is unreal," Almora said. "You've got the best of the best here. I'm super excited to have the game that I had, I'm super blessed. I couldn't ask for any more."
Almora wasn't the only Cubs prospect to have a hand in the offensive outburst. Designated hitter Jorge Soler, the No. 3 prospect, went 1-for-5 with three RBIs and third baseman Kris Byant, the No. 4 prospect, went 2-for-3 with a three-run home run in the first inning. Almora, Soler and Bryant are all highly ranked on MLB.com's Top 100 prospect list.
Even Wes Darvill, who replaced Bryant at third base in the seventh inning, hit a two-run home run in his lone plate appearance. In all, the four Cubs combined to go 8-for-14 with three home runs, seven runs and 11 RBIs.
After Bryant hit his home run, Almora said he waited for him on the top step of the dugout shaking his head in disbelief that his teammate had followed him four batters later with a home run of his own.
"It was awesome," Almora said. "They were saying in the dugout, 'It's all you guys. It's all Cubs.'"
Thanks in part to Almora and Bryant, Lorenzen, the Reds' No. 6 prospect, allowed seven runs on six hits in two innings. He walked three batters and had no strikeouts.
In contrast, left-hander Sammy Solis threw 3 2/3 shutout innings to earn the victory for Mesa. The Nationals' No. 11 prospect is spending his third fall in four years in the AFL as he continues his recovery following Tommy John surgery last year.
After Solis exited the game, the Desert Dogs' offense fared better. First baseman Travis Mattair, right fielder Jared Mitchell and pinch hitter Brandon Jacobs each hit solo home runs in the game's final four innings.
But after Mesa's offensive explosion, it wasn't enough. All 10 players who appeared for the Solar Sox had at least one hit, and eight scored at least one run.
Leading it all was Almora. The No. 6 overall selection in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft hasn't played above Class A Kane County yet and, at 19 years old, he is one of the youngest players in the AFL this year. But he wasn't overwhelmed by the environment Wednesday and said he is eager to use this fall as a learning experience.
"Just to get better and learn from the best and to try to have fun," Almora said. "I want to pick people's brains. That's what we're here for."