Jorge Soler‘s first at-bat with the Chicago Cubs ended with a baseball having been violently smashed deep over the center field wall in Cincinnati, beyond the bullpen. It was a moment some will see as a watershed one for the Cubs. This homer against the Cincinnati Reds represents the debut of yet another top prospect from the Cubs organization. This coming in a week when there seems to be articles everywhere proclaiming the Cubs as sleepers to make the playoffs in 2015.
It’s all wonderful to read, and yes, this group of players is going to lead the Cubs to an unparalleled era of success in the very near future. But as exciting as guys like Soler, and his young teammates like Javier Baez (who had a two-run double in tonight’s 7-5 loss to the Reds), Arismendy Alcantara, and Kyle Hendricks have been this season, there is still a long way to go. Yes, the Cubs are playing .500 ball over their last nearly 100 games, a significant sample size. But that doesn’t mean Rome has been built in a day. The Cubs haven’t even debuted all their talent yet, what with third baseman Kris Bryant (he of the 43 minor-league homers this season) still at AAA Iowa, and multiple top prospects throughout the system.
All of the individual talent in one organization is pretty amazing, even more so that it’s the Cubs. For once, it’s the Cubs. But this team has to learn how to win, how to hit in key situations, how to get the big out defensively. While the Cubs were still in the game early tonight, defensive miscues extended an inning and the Reds lead. It’s hard for talent alone to overcome those kind of mistakes.
Pitcher Jacob Turner, making his first start since being acquired (stolen) from the Miami Marlins, had a couple decent innings and his line was probably worse than he deserved, having given up six runs in 3.2 innings, but only three of those were earned. But the start will be a valuable experience for him, and the Cubs are better off with Turner in the rotation than Edwin Jackson, who has proven he can no longer get it done at the major league level.
It isn’t impossible that the Cubs could contend in 2015. But even Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer might tell you that’s a year earlier than planned. Soler and Baez, no matter how impressive their homers may be, are both very early in their professional maturation. The same goes for Alcantara, and guys like Bryant haven’t even been exposed to the majors yet. Cubs fans shouldn’t jump off the bandwagon if Chicago is a mere 80-82 in 2015. It will still be a sign of progress (and probably better than the Chicago White Sox). Great times are ahead, and debuts like the one Soler made tonight are very encouraging. But that doesn’t change the fact that there’s still a long time left in this building process.