It seems as much as the Cubs want to tone down the hype on Jorge Soler, they just can't help themselves, writes Ken Rosenthal. Soler is getting raves from Cubs management, coaches, and players about his tools, approach, his all-around game, and his confidence.
“He’s legit, a physical specimen, impressive bat speed — and a rocket arm, too,” outfielder Scott Hairston says
Veteran Alfonso Soriano, who was once -- and still is -- a physical specimen himself says,
"He's going to be something"
Veteran non-roster outfielder Darnell McDonald calls him "King James" after NBA star LeBron James. It's fitting in a way because not only is James physically gifted, but he was advanced beyond his years when he was a young man. It seems Soler may fit that same description.
We noted last year here on this site that Soler had better plate discipline than I expected. The walk total was modest, but Soler consistently worked the count while at Kane County, often putting himself in favorable hitting positions. It's something he often too advantage of, including this home run...
It's the advanced approach that has many excited, including Cubs MLB hitting coach James Rowson,
“He’s disciplined beyond his age. He’s kind of ahead of the game. He’s out there taking aggressive hacks. But he’s swinging at good pitches, laying off some tough breaking balls early in camp. He’s exciting, fun to watch.”
Even the normally reserved Theo Epstein is getting into the act,
“What has been really impressive, all last year and so far in camp, is how into defense and baserunning he is. He shows a really good first step in the outfield, takes good routes and has a plus arm with a lot of accuracy and carry. He also has showed a real interest in stolen bases. He was almost perfect last year (12 for 13).”
It's interesting to read the progress on his defense. In the short time I saw him in Kane County, he was inconsistent. He showed tons of ability and a great arm, but he didn't always get good jumps or take good routes. That was probably due to him still shaking off a little rust from not having played competitvely since 2010. When I saw him again in instructs he was already much better, even making two spectacular diving catches to wow the sparse crowd (much of whom were his own teammates).
Now if anybody would know anything on this subject, it's outfield guru Dave McKay, who transformed Soriano from a hair-raising sideshow in LF to a dependable outfielder last season,
“The way he moves, catches the ball, it’s just like a veteran guy,” McKay says. “And he does the right things. He comes up, his throws are low, hard, accurate, straight. He doesn’t overthrow.”
We knew about Soler's tremendous swing and bat speed. We knew about that power potential. So now with the rapid improvement in his approach at the plate, his baserunning, and his defense, the question must be asked.
"Is Jorge Soler now the Cubs top prospect?"
This is not a knock on Javier Baez, who has held his own after some struggles in the first intrasquad game. Baez has played about as well as you would expect from a kid who has just turned 20 and has less than a year's worth of full season ball worth of experience. He has shown some flashes of great play and he plays the premium defensive position of SS -- and he plays it well.
But it's Soler's advanced approach and physical maturity which may have him ahead of Baez at this point. They'll both be at high Class A Daytona this year to start the season and it's going to be a lot of fun to watch if you happen to be down in Florida. Just make sure you get their early if you want to catch both of those guys in the same lineup.