Don’t get too overly excited, because he’s still far away from roaming the Chicago Cubs‘ outfield, but 20-year old (turns 21 next week) Cuban defector Jorge Soler put on a nice little show yesterday in batting practice.
Of the people in attendance at the Cubs’ spring training facilities in Mesa, AZ, most were impressed with how loudly the ball comes off of his bat, and others noted his strong, athletic physique. Cubs manager Dale Sveum compared his stance to a young, right-handed Cliff Floyd, and I’ve even heard some make the comparison to a young Dave Winfield.
Surely, those two comparisons are miles apart in terms of baseball ability, but if Soler can develop into something like either, the Cubs will be in business.
The best thing about the excitement revolving around Soler, MLB.com’s #42 prospect, is that if he becomes a star, the Cubs have him under team-control for a long time. The youngster was inked to a nine-year, $30-million deal last June, which makes him incredibly cheap for the caliber player he could end up being.
At the same time, it is very important for Cubs fans to remain patient with Soler’s development. Though Soler thinks he’ll be ready for the Majors by this time next year, that is a long shot. However, in his short professional debut in 2012, Soler quickly adapted to playing ball in this country. He hit very well in 20 games at Low-A Peoria. His .338 batting average with three home runs and 15 RBI definitely look nice on his big-league resume. Soler also swiped four bases in five attempts, and most impressively, struck out just six times in 88 plate appearances.
On some occasions, scouts have regarded Soler as a five-tool player, and a very hardworking and competitive prospect. He’s been working out with Cubs hitting coach James Rowson this winter and will continue to for the rest of the spring. His above-average arm suggests that he’ll probably stick in right field someday, but Sveum says that Soler will play in both left and right for this year’s spring training games. I’m guessing that he will play a couple times a week, maybe three, but because of added split-squad games, some of the prospects, including Soler and Javier Baez may get to stay in camp longer than a prospect traditionally would.
Afterwards, fans will have to wait until next spring training to see Soler in a Chicago Cubs uniform again. Hopefully by then, he’ll have another strong performance in the Minor Leagues under his belt.
Though Soler’s 2012 numbers were impressive, especially for a kid playing in a new country, it’s much safer to wait and see what he can do this season before we start comparing him to Hall of Famers.
Svuem has told reporters that he should travel from camp to start the season in High-A Daytona, and possibly move up to Double-A Tennessee later in the season. Cubs General Manager Jed Hoyer has recently expressed his belief that a player should see an entire season at the Triple-A level before making the leap to the Majors, so it may be reasonable to assume that it will be at least two more years before we see Soler playing at Wrigley Field.