I got my first opportunity to see Jorge Soler in person last Friday, and to say that he was impressive would be a colossal understatement. I’d read the scouting reports, watched him on MiLB.tv, etc. But Soler is one of those guys that you just can’t really prepare yourself for. He’s so insanely talented that it would be easy to get lost in superlatives while merely naming off his attributes.
The 22-year-old Soler has been even better than Javier Baez (my thoughts on him here) or Kris Bryant (write-up on him here) this season. Sure, Bryant and Baez have put up video-game numbers of their own, but what Soler has managed to accomplish through 43 games — split between Double-A and Triple-A — is simply astounding. Through 156 plate appearances (he’s missed time with hamstring injuries), Soler is hitting an outrageous .346/.442/.746. In addition to his 11 homers, Soler has hit more doubles (17) than singles (16).
What makes all this so much more impressive is that he’s doing it with a healthy 15.4% walk rate and just a 19.2% strikeout rate. This is where Soler’s accomplishments outshine even those of Bryant and Baez, who have both operated with strikeout rates north of 25% all year.
Last Friday was an emphatic statement from Soler regarding his talent level. In his first trip to the dish, he took two pitches just off the black outside — and a third just a few inches inside — before laying off a high fastball to earn a four-pitch walk. One inning later, Soler crushed an inside fastball that left the ballpark in a nanosecond:
By the way, that homer came on an 0-2 pitch. Soler’s next trip to the plate came with one out in the top of the fifth. First base was open, but Nick Tropeano had just made Bryant look foolish on a three-pitch strikeout. Tropeano, a Triple-A All-Star in his own right who I’m very high on, threw Soler one outside fastball to see if he’d bite. Soler took the pitch and Tropeano proceeded to walk him intentionally.
In typical baseball terms, the scenario above seems fairly routine; Mike Olt was due up next, and this set up the double play. However, if you don’t watch much minor-league baseball, you might not know that intentional walks are far less frequent than they are in the majors. Managers quite often choose to see if their young hurlers can handle the pressure instead of handing out free passes intentionally.
Case in point: David Ortiz and Giancarlo Stanton each have 19 IBB on the year. Only two entire teams in the Pacific Coast League have drawn more intentional walks this season: Las Vegas (22) and New Orleans (21). To illustrate this point further, in his 108.2 innings this year, Nick Tropeano has issued zero intentional walks, aside from the one he gave Soler in this game. This is the level of threat Soler brings to the plate.
Even still, it was his fourth trip to the plate that was perhaps the most impressive. After Soler fouled off several tough pitches, Anthony Bass threw him a fastball up and away. If you just looked at Soler’s swing — and not the path of the ball off his bat — you would assume he had slapped a single the other way. In reality, it was a rocket line-drive that one-hopped the wall off the warning track. This is the very definition of ‘easy power’ we’re talking about here.
Watching Soler play checks off all the boxes, and then some. Quick hands? Check. Ridiculous bat speed? Check. Advanced approach? Check. Pitch recognition? Check. And you know what’s amazing? The general perception of Soler seems to be fading, despite his out-of-this-world tools and production. Whether due to concerns over his ability to stay healthy, or makeup questions surrounding last year’s bat-wielding fight incident, Baseball America inexplicably left Soler off their midseason Top 50 entirely.
I would be surprised if Soler doesn’t see the majors this year. With Baez, Arismendy Alcantara (write-up here) and Kyle Hendricks already playing in the bigs, it would seem Soler’s debut will come sooner rather than later. The fact that he’s already on the 40-man roster makes it that much easier.
For fantasy purposes, I expect Soler to have an immediate impact. The moment he’s called up will be a mad dash to the waiver wire for fantasy owners. If you’ve got a spot to play with, I’d recommend rostering him now. I wouldn’t imagine we’ll wait too long before Soler’s launching bombs at Wrigley instead of in the PCL.
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