Is Jorge Soler now the Cubs top prospect?

Is Jorge Soler now the Cubs top prospect?
Soler loads up a little deep...

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.

Filed under: polls, prospects

Tags: Jorge Soler

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  • I think it's too early to tell. A lot of it depends on what you weight, when ranking them, upside vs MLB ready, vs position premium, etc... Either way, they are clearly #1 & #2 in the system. But 1 week into spring training is way too early to tell. Let these two solve that question after 90 games in Daytona... or better yet, 300+ PA's at AA Tennessee......... then we'll know who the top prospect is or at least who is more MLB ready.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    It does depend on all of that. But right now if I were to narrow it down to just offensive potential, I'd go with Soler because I think he has more offensve upside than Almora and he's close to or equal to Baez in offensive upside...but he is more advanced than Baez at the plate, so probably less bust potential.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John...When exactly were you watching Soler at Kane County?

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    He became the top prospect the instant he signed that $30M contract. Ain't no other prospect getting that kinda dough. So he's certainly the top prospect in the FO's eyes. And beyond that, everything written and said about him indicates the top dog as well.

    Here's my thing: If he hits .350 or better in 100 or so ABs against MLB pitchers in AZ, what the heck, let's bring him north and give him a shot. If he struggles, send him down for more seasoning. Same with Jackson. If they earn it, give 'em a shot. I don't want to wait for 2014.

    THE FUTURE IS NOW, BABY!

  • The Cubs have a number of top position prospects jockeying for spots in the rankings. I'm sure the order will change a few times.

    No matter what this is far superior to the Lo-Prospect Cubs With The Occasional Prospect Spurt we're used to.

  • In reply to eaton53:

    I think the top 3 guys are almost interchangeable with Baez getting the nod in large part because of upside and positional value. Soler may equal him in upside and Almora approaches him in positional value, but Baez has combination of both. If we were talking strictly offensive potential however, I may go with Soler as best combination of ceiling and floor.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Who's the editor for this crap? The Cubs have yet to play a single game with their affiliate in Kane County, yet John watched Soler be "inconsistent" there last year. Was it a private workout that you arranged at Geneva High School, John?

  • In reply to PrimeTyme57:

    Relax and breathe. What's the big problem?

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    Now you can't believe a single word of this article. John said he saw Soler be inconsistent at Kane County, he watched it. That was a lie, is the rest of the article factually incorrect?

  • In reply to PrimeTyme57:

    It's not a "lie", kid. He watched Soler PLAY FOR PEORIA ON THE ROAD AT KANE COUNTY last year. It's in the Cubs Minors Recaps articles.
    Do some research before you spout and pout.
    How about an apology to John?

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    In reply to PrimeTyme57:

    It still amazes me when people on the internet get on their high-horse and try to discredit another person on something they've said or written when they clearly have no idea what they're talking about.....

    As Kenny stated, maybe do a bit of research next time so you don't embarrass yourself, eh?

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    In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    They're out in force today. Glad John has thicker skin than I.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    There's a full moon....gets the critters howling.

  • In reply to PrimeTyme57:

    Think a little harder PrimeTyme. It will come to you.

    In fact, just watch the video. It's Jorge Soler playing in Kane County. Yes, he didn't play for the team, that's just where I saw him play. I also saw him play in Beloit. I did not see him play in Peoria, so I can't speak personally to how he performed there.

  • I see that BP has 4 Cubs in the top 50 or so.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    I may mention it in a news/notes item later. Seems like every list gets a bit more bullish on prospects --as if the lists themselves have momentum.

  • In reply to SFToby:

    An interesting tidbit on Vizcaino from the Top 101 BP chat:

    "Jason Parks on the Top 101 Prospects: He's a reliever. I don't see a starter, and most of the sources for the Cubs list felt the same way."

    I've always heard the Cubs thought he was a starter.

  • I've been a Cubs fan since 1969. I'm not familiar with the term 'advanced approach'. Only kidding a little bit.

    It's really nice to have Baez, Soler, and Almora. I'd lean slightly Soler, but they are all very close in my expectations, fulfilling different roles at positions not presumed to be offensive positions. In Cubs lore, at least.

  • In reply to tim815:

    Ha! I know what you mean.

    Agreed those top 3 are very close and as some have mentioned, it depends on what you value most in a prospect.

  • In reply to tim815:

    Ive been a Cubs fan since the early 60s era of Banks, Santo, Williams, etc, that formed the core of the late 60s Cubs teams. Right now, this is the best farm system in terms of legitimate talent Ive ever seen, at least in position players. You have at least 5 legitimate MLB talents at A ball this year, and that's just the names everyone knows.

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    In reply to mutant beast:

    I too have been a fan since the 60s and I think the Cubs' minor league system of the 80s tops what the Cubs have right now. (Not that I'm not loving what they have now)

    They had one first ballot HOFer in Greg Maddux, a tainted HOF candidate in Palmeiro, Mark Grace, Joe Carter, Mel Hall, Billy Hatcher, Shawon Dunston, Davey Martinez Jamie Moyer and '89 ROY Jerome Walton and runner-up Dwight Smith. And I may be forgetting a couple. If the years ahead produce anything close to that haul, I'll be overjoyed.

    To say there are five legitimate MLB prospects at A Ball is a stretch but closer to the truth than saying there are five legit talents. If they were legit MLB talents they'd be in MLB. A lot can go wrong between A and MLB.

  • In reply to Harry Towns:

    Agreed. That was the most recent heyday for the Cubs minors. This group has a chance to match that one eventually but they have to prove it at the MLB level.

  • Not Soler related, but at least prospect related...

    A nice article by Phil Rogers this morning on Jackson's progress, and an interesting comparison to Rizzo. Rizzo's San Diego call-up numbers didn't look all that different from Jackson's Chicago call-up numbers.

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/columnists/ct-spt-0225-rogers-column-cubs--20130225,0,3976884.column

  • Happy b-day Jorge!

  • Whether he is or not, we need him to be the top prospect. Our OF has no long term solutions. Whereas our IF has plenty of talented cost-controlled years ahead of it. He's a bit more MLB-ready physically, and he has quite a bit of experience, albeit mostly in Cuba. His paycheck also plays a lot better at Wrigley than Daytona.

    All that said, I expect he gets to spend 2013 gaining experience at at Daytona & Tenn. Maybe see him at the end of 2014 after spending most of the year at our Iowa "Finishing School".

  • In reply to Cubswin4harry:

    I think that's a realistic timetable for Soler.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    If that is a realistic timetable, what would be a optimistic timetable? A late call up this year? Is that even possible with how far away he is. And how does his age effect his timetable compared to say Almora?

  • In reply to MyersTech:

    The cost-control aspects are a little harder to understand because he signed an MLB-contract that has some voiding options depending on whether he would rather go to arbitration or accept his current contact terms.

    But the bottom line is that I don't think that will play much of a factor in the decision. Rather the team can focus solely on what is best for his development. So it will just depend on how he adjusts to the various levels and the overall assessment of what he needs to demonstrate before he gets the call-up. If he absolutely tears up Daytona and Tenn, could be called up in Sept? Certainly not likely, but a theoretical possibility. More likely than say, Baez, because service time won't be an issue.

  • In reply to MyersTech:

    I didn't meant to say it wasn't optimistic. Maybe the better word to use would be plausible. I think 2014 is both realistic and optimistic -- if that makes sense.

    As for 2013, I highly doubt it but you never say never when it comes to elite prospects. Not saying Soler is there yet or that he will ever get that kind of status, but the ability to be one is there. If he takes that step up, then all rules and timetables go out the window.

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    There's something that's been bothering me about Baez (and, to a lesser extent, Castro): can you name a guy who has been over aggressive in the minors but has improved his plate discipline as he's advanced?

    Sheffield, for example, had about a 10% walk rate in the minors.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    It does happen. Just to use a quick, familiar example Soriano, had a 5% walk rate in AAA and has had over 7.5% in 4 of the past 5 years. He's gotten better in time. I don't think you can expect Baez to be a disciplined hitter but I think it's no unrealistic or him to have a similar walk rate, which is roughly MLB average. If he hits .300 and hits 30 HRs, you take that with no questions asked.

  • It is exciting to hear all of the early spring kudos directed at Soler. It is meaningful and rare when veteran players complement someone still in the lower minor leagues.
    When I read McDonald's comment comparing Soler to LeBron James it reignited a personal pet peeve for me. I wish more athletes in the USA would be encouraged to focused on baseball at a young age (8-12 years old). MLB needs to do a much better job encouraging and dedicating resources for USA youth (whether urban, suburban, or rural...warm or cool climate) to play baseball. At this time of year, I watch all of the great athletes in high school and college playing basketball. Most of them have a slim chance of playing in the NBA...especially if they are under 6'5". There are much better chances for an athlete in baseball. MLB needs to promote A. Jackson, G. Stanton, Kemp, etc as athletes who had choices and selected baseball. These guys will make lots more money playing baseball.

  • In reply to Rosemary:

    Agreed Rosemary. Well said. Need to get more athletes interested in baseball. Two things that work against it is that it's more costly, the need for more space, and it's an outdoor only, warm weather sport. I think the players coming out of the Dominican have showed that you don't necessarily need a lot of money -- just warm weather and a place to play.

  • I hate to bring it up, but how sure are we of Soler's birthdate? There was the dispute over Orlando Hernandez's birth year. Jose Contreras claims to be 41, but that dude looks damn near 50. It's not unprecedented with Cubans. I'll keep drinking the blue Kool Aid and telling myself the kid is legit, but there is a little voice in the back of my head telling me to proceed with caution.

  • In reply to Ratmoss:

    That stigma remains, I suppose and there's always a possibility. But sometimes I think, if people think Contreras is really 50, how the heck is he still throwing in the 90s? If it's true, how come US pitchers can't pitch into their 50s? We see guys occasionally in their mid 40s but they're either lefty specialists or knuckleballers or finesse guys with 80 mph fastballs like Moyer. If we celebrate Moyers longevity, why don't we celebrate Contreras if we really believe he's a 50 year old guy throwing 93 mph fastballs?

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    In reply to Ratmoss:

    MLB cleared Solar for signing before the Cubs were able to sign him. In fact, no bids were allowed until his age was verified by MLB. That's all the assurance anyone needs and more then ever before.

  • In reply to Betty Amie:

    He was also in the Cuban minor leagues which makes me think he was younger. They don't normally let an older player that talented stick in their minors when they could be up in the Series Nacional (the Cuban equivalent of MLB).

  • In reply to Ratmoss:

    RM, its the Dominicans who seem to have age mostly. Don't forget, until Barbaro Garbay defected 25 yrs ago, the last Cuban who was an impact big leaguer was Tony Oliva. Castro got tired of them defecting, so they are slowly letting them leave.

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    John in the future I'd say when Soler hits the MLB you give this guy say 550 to 600 PA's he will hit you 40 bombs.. Maybe not his first 2 years up but say maybe his mid 20s.. I'm comparing him to Mike Stanton.. I can only hope he turns out like him.. I forgot who I got this quote from on Stanton but thought I'd share it. "His mistakes are 420 foot bombs" lol thought that was pretty cool..

  • In reply to Colman Conneely:

    It's exciting to dream on that kind of upside. Cubs haven't had enough of that.

  • I think that Soler "maybe" more advanced hitting wise than Baez. I'm not ready to say he is the best prospect yet.

  • In reply to Steve Flores:

    It makes for an interesting question. I think we can at least say he's closed the gap -- I think a lot of people were unsure about Soler last year because they hadn't seen a lot of him -- and what they did see was a guy who hadn't played competitive ball for almost 2 years. It's amazing to think he did as well as he did.

  • If you go by the term "PROSPECT" then Soler is the top guy. Ive said he has all the physical skills, now we have to see how he can handle the mental part of the game. Im betting he can, youngsters that come from backgrounds similar to his often tend to be the oes who appreciate and respect what they've been given. Im betting you likely wont see any Barry Bonds type attitude out of Soler.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    Well put MB. One of the things I liked reading about was his good attitude out there. My own observations were that he's confident yet very humble and well-liked by his teammates.

  • Off topic question: If B. Jackson starts the year at Iowa and rakes with his new swing, will he get some recognition from the scouting gurus and put him in the top 100 prospect list?

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    In reply to John57:

    If he's raking at Iowa I would hope he gets called up quickly and then we don't have to worry about him being on prospect lists anymore.

  • In reply to Zachary Myers:

    I want him to get called up too but I'm guessing Theo/Hoyer will want him to test his new swing at AAA for a while. And in that time frame I was wondering if the gurus will notice him or have they just tossed him in the "old news/bust" bin.

    My wish is they call him up and he continues to rake and wins the ROY award. :)

  • In reply to John57:

    If there's a midseason list maybe. He'll probably lose prospect status by the end of the year if he's hitting.

  • He's probably ahead of Almora now in a lot of people's minds, which he has been for me for awhile. Though I gotta admit the eternal hope of spring throws gasoline on the fire of small sample bias.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    Small sample size applies to numbers, but nobody is talking about those. We're talking about his tools/skills...his ability to swing a bat, run, catch and throw a baseball, and he raw power. That part is either there or it isn't -- and it doesn't take that long to see that a player has talent, which is really what the article is about.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    My point is that you're gonna get more of a feeling for a player's ability and consistency over a longer stretch of time than a week and a half of spring training, especially with the hype that always surrounds this time of year. Surprised I have to spell that out with you including "Too early to tell" in the poll.

    I meant to mention too that I was going through ranking my fantasy league players yesterday and was surprised to see Soler included among the players! How many other A level players you think made that list?

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    That's plenty enough time to tell whether a player has talent and things such as raw power, speed, defensive ability, throwing arm.

    Whether that translates to the games is something that may be too early to tell. But that goes for almost any prospect any time they go to a new level up until they reach the majors.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I'd think the raw tools he possessed were already factored into him being rated so high going into spring training. I know we've been talking about them since he was signed, and he did play A ball last year. I do get that there can be refinements with more exposure, but jumping all the way up to #1 after 10 days of spring trainings seems like more than a refinement, and at this time of year I take it with a grain of salt.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    different types of talent. Right now, Almora is likely looked at as a top notch defender, a line drive hitter more likely to hit 300 than hit 20+ HRs. Sort of a RH Mark Grace, just for comparison sake. Soler is looked upon as a big-time power prospect, with a big arm that fits the classic RF mold.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    Most rankings had Almora higher than Soler was my point. Sounds like that might be changing.

  • When you remember what teenager Harper and 20 yr old Trout did last year, who's to say that Soler can't suddenly become the next immediate phenom?

  • In reply to JayPea:

    Yep...IF Soler takes that step up into elite status then standard timetables no longer apply.

  • I tend to lean towards 'polished-ness' & advanced approach when ranking the prospects. Before Spring Training and this article I had Soler 5th (because i wanted to see a full season)

    ..but now he's my #1 with Vizcaino #2 (with hope that the TJ makes him 'durable' enough to start).

  • In reply to CubFan Paul:

    A lot depends on your risk vs. ceiling preference. If you like lower risk you'll like guys like Almora and if you like high ceilings you might be inclined to go Baez. Soler may be the best combo of the three in terms of combination of ceiling and floor.

  • In reply to CubFan Paul:

    Vizciano is a project for next year. 2013 is all about seeing him return to health

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    A little OT: Is there anywhere that we can keep tabs on the minor league camp? I would like to know how Almora, Vogelbomb, and Vizcaino are doing.

  • In reply to Zachary Myers:

    Viz was throwing a BP session today. Try CCO, some of there Twitter followers send in stuff about the top prospects. Im like you, Ive become a big Vogelboom fan. The kid can hit.

  • In reply to Zachary Myers:

    I don't believe they've started games yet. They're in camp, though. If anyone will follow it and keep tabs it's AZ Phil from the Cub Reporter.

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    I think it's really hard to say who the best prospect is right now. However, that we are even having this discussion over consensus top 50 prospects is a good sign.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    It's nice to be discussng among legit top guys for a change.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    But it's not just that John. Cubs fans have had discussion over legit top prospects before: Patterson, Choi, Hill, Kelton, Montanez, etc. Those guys were all legit talent wise. However, there seems to be an actual system in place to groom Soler, Baez and Almora, and even leftovers like Jackson seem to be benefiting from the way the new regime does things. Would the old regime have even tried to retool Jackson's swing or tweak Soler's? No, they would've left them alone, and when they failed, they would've gotten rid of them.

  • If you notice Theo and Jed have backed off the one year of AAA for all to a each player will be judged individually with the norm being one year or 500AAA AB's. If Soler continues at this pace in his development I see a september call up. Look around at all the young really good talent in MLB (Trout, Harper come to mind). Why not Soler.

  • To me, the most important thing about the question of "who is the Cubs best prospect" is the fact that there IS a question about it.

    For most of the past 50 years that I have been following the Cubs farm system, a prospect with the tools and performance of Baez would be so far ahead of the "second best" prospect that no one would even raise the question.

    On a more sober note, the only other time I can remember two prospects as good as Baez and Soler was when Patterson and Choi were tearing up the minors.

    Even can't miss prospects can miss.

  • I said yes to Soler because I think he has a higher "floor" at this point. I think Baez has more of a chance of flaming out. (I hope not, of course!)

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    Soler is a great prospect, I like him over Almora even. Over Baez? Not a chance in hell that I would currently rank him ahead, Baez is still #1 and there shouldn't be a doubt.

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