Jorge Soler And The Cubs’ Embarrassment Of Riches

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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Scott Strandberg is a writer by day and musician by night. He is the film critic for The Norman Transcript, and his baseball writing has been featured at The Hardball Times and MLBDepthCharts. He enjoys cooking and professional wrestling. Follow him on Twitter @ScottStrandberg.


20 Responses to “Jorge Soler And The Cubs’ Embarrassment Of Riches”

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  1. FeslenR says:

    Imagine if the Cubs dealt Castro…how much they’d get back in return. Nice to see the Cubs’ future arriving in droves, now if they can get impact pitching.

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  2. novaether says:

    Do you think Soler is a better prospect than Bryant and Baez? That’s at least the impression I got from your write-up here. If so, I hadn’t heard this kind of enthusiasm for the kid before. Baez and Bryant are consensus top 10 prospects – even top 5 in some lists. Where would you put Soler overall?

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    • Bryant, and especially Baez, offer far more in the field. Soler has a good arm but he won’t ever really be more than an average defensive corner outfielder. So, no, I would still have Bryant and Baez above him, but if we’re just talking about the bat, I see no reason to put those guys too far ahead of him.

      As for where I’d have him in a top prospects list, just off the top of my head, I’d probably have him in the Top 25. I still can’t believe BA dropped him from their Top 50. That’s insanity.

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      • Matt says:

        I think timing of those lists coming out has to do with overlooking Soler. He’s been hurt a lot and hasn’t really had time to get into a groove at the plate in any season. Now that he has, he’s certain to be a quick riser on those lists in the spring, assuming he’s still eligible.

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      • I would have an easier time buying that argument if the article wasn’t titled “Midseason Top 50: Injury Can’t Knock Buxton From No. 1.”

        Their notes on Buxton: “Wrist injury has ruined his season, but his long-term potential remains unblemished.”

        No. 3 Carlos Correa: “Broken leg has to heal, but he was ready for Double-A when the injury occurred.”

        No. 5 Addison Russell: “Missed half the year with a hamstring problem; remains an elite all-around shortstop prospect with his new team.”

        No. 9 Miguel Sano: “Won’t play this season due to Tommy John surgery, so he can commiserate with Buxton.”

        Yet they leave Soler off the list entirely because of a nagging hamstring issue? Furthermore, Soler was hitting .397/.471/.808 in Double-A the day that list was published.

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      • Matt says:

        Ha fair enough. I guess the difference was, at the time, Soler had been dealing with multiple injuries, and had never had a prolonged success streak at any level the way the others you listed have. I do agree with the larger point though, that Soler has been drastically underrated since he signed with the Cubs, if nothing else because of the upside he presents with his loud tools.

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  3. Puig's Translator says:

    George “The Sun God” Soler

    Talk about “Ra” power. Amirite?

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  4. Balls in the Dirt says:

    “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.”

    Agreed, Soler has inexplicably become a sub mid-tier prospect.

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  5. Whatever says:

    I gladly traded for him in my mixed league. you dont see power like this with the bat control this often. Guy is going to be a BEAST!!

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  6. Him says:

    He’s on a major league deal, so no reason to hold him down for service time issues. I just pray he can stay healthy.

    Coughlan
    Baez
    Rizzo
    Castro
    Valbuena
    Soler
    Alcantara
    Castillo
    actually looks like a real MLB line-up. Finally!

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  7. Sinnycal says:

    You’re right. “Inexplicable” is the only word to describe Soler’s fall from prospect list grace. When the Cubs signed him, everyone was in love with his tools but wondered about his pitch recognition and strike zone judgement. It’s bizarre, then, that he’s somehow become less well-regarded now that he’s knocking on the door to MLB, still has the same ridiculous tools, and has demonstrated that–far from being a weakness–pitch recognition and strike zone judgement are legitimate STRENGTHS in his skillset. I really can’t see what’s not to like about him as a hitter.

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  8. Joeyheynow says:

    He is already on the 40-man roster, which, in my mind, pretty much guarantees a Sept call-up

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  9. mymaus says:

    Wow! I’d love to pick him up when he comes up in my H2H OBP league. We have small rosters in my league and I’m the best at grabbing the call ups. My “problem” is I don’t THINK I have a place for him. Would you drop Bruce for him?

    I also have Votto on the DL. I’ll be dropping Carter (UTIL) when Votto comes off. Is Soler going to be better than Votto?

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  10. T Bass says:

    I live in Des Moines and have seen Soler play a lot recently, and am wondering if he was excluded from other prospect lists partially because of poor defense? I don’t think they’ve charged him with errors, but last week he missed a couple balls in RF that most minor league players would have gotten. He played one so poorly the guy got to 3rd on what should have been an out. I’m no scout, but the glove doesn’t seem ready.

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  11. Hiya says:

    So how is Soler (the mid-tier prospect) doing?

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