Jorge Soler: First Impressions of a Cubs Top Prospect
The Cubs called up Jorge Soler on Monday, bringing the talented outfielder to Wrigley for the last six weeks of the season. Across three levels, the Cuban compiled a triple slash of .340/.432/.700, more than enough to warrant a big league look. Unlike Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara, Soler was already on the 40-man roster and is signed to a Major League contract. Recalled midway through the I-Cubs’ matchup against Tacoma, Soler provided a brief glimpse into his potential. What will the future star be working on during his time in the north side of Chicago?
Attending Sunday’s 14-inning marathon between the Iowa Cubs and the Tacoma Rainiers, this viewer was treated to multiple back-to-back at-bats from Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler (the sluggers will likely sandwich Anthony Rizzo in Chicago). Unfortunately, Soler served as the designated hitter and the I-Cubs didn’t take pre-game batting practice. Still, Cubs fans are less excited by Soler’s defensive profile than offensive potential, which was on display Sunday.
The Cuban’s swing is long and powerful, but his hands and hips are explosive. At 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, the outfielder looks like he should be lining up opposite another young Chicago star, Alshon Jeffery, at wide receiver for the Bears. As a power hitter, Jorge Soler will rack up a fair share of strikeouts, but his hand-eye coordination is incredible, playing up his contact skills. When many batters shorten their swings in two-strike counts, Soler is able to retain length and power on account of his elite athleticism. For this reason, comparisons to Yasiel Puig are reasonable.
During the second at-bat, the right-handed Soler worked a 2-1 count before hammering a low-and-inside fastball for a deep home run to left. Taking a 2-0 change-up might have been the key. In a hitter’s count, the Rainers’ pitcher Forrest Snow threw an effective change-up, which would have induced a weak ground ball from many hitters. The pitch fooled Soler, but rather than risk poor contact, the outfielder conceded the strike and continued the at bat. Snow’s follow-up started on the inner half and tailed in on Soler’s hands. The Cuban dropped the bat head, allowing for enough extension to drive the pitch out. On first glance, the pitch looked to have caught too much of the plate. After review, the swing is strong indication of Soler’s ability to barrel pitches near the zone.
The top prospect is learning how to approach upper level at-bats. In his seven plate appearances Sunday, Soler saw 39 pitches en route to a 3-for-5 day with two singles, the home run, and two walks. The Cuban worked a respectable BB:K ratio of 33-to-48 in the minors, showing the ability to maintain the strike zone. Soler’s contact skills will allow for an easier transition than fellow prospect Baez, whom chases too many pitches and expands the zone.
What Should Fans Expect from Jorge Soler?
Jorge Soler possesses elite athleticism and power. Understated is Soler’s bat-to-ball skill. The Cuban has the potential to maintain a .290 batting average (good for a 60 grade) and hit 30+ home runs (70 grade power). Whether or not he’s more Puig or George Springer will depend on the development of his approach.
Mike Trout is an example of a player employing elite hit and power tools despite striking out frequently. The difference between Trout and Springer is approach. Soler seemed confused at times by pitch sequencing, but contact skills (along with strength) make up for mistakes. Major League pitchers will exploit holes in Soler’s swing quickly, just like Baez, which will force the young outfielder to adjust.
It might be as easy as shortening the swing in pitcher’s counts. On the other hand, rather than compromise (one of) their prized asset’s biggest tools, the Cubs might leave Soler alone and trust adjustments to happen naturally with experience. For all the eyes on Puig before his breakout, few believed the Cuban’s raw tools would click in the bigs as quickly. Jorge Soler has all the ability to repeat Puig’s rapid transition. One game was enough to buy into the hype.
28 Aug 2014 / Ben Flajole /
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