Thoughts and scouting info on Jorge Soler and Kris Bryant

hThe Cubs won handily to salvage one game from the White Sox in their 4 game set.   But with the Cubs season looking rather grim, the best news yesterday came from Tennessee.

That is because Jorge Soler rejoined the Smokies lineup and according to one scout, "looked like he hadn't missed a day" and Kris Bryant launched his 9th HR of the season, raising his line on the season to .328/.437/.630 with a ridiculous .477 wOBA and a 207 RC+.  For sake of comparison, Javier Baez put up a .435 wOBA and a 180 RC+ in his monstrous partial season there last season.

The concern about Soler has been his ability to stay on the field, a stress fracture in his tibia cost him the second half of last season and then Soler essentially missed the first 5 weeks of this season with a pulled hamstring.  It was an injury Soler suffered in the spring and while the Cubs had some misgivings about playing him, Soler badly wanted to play.  So he did -- and then aggravated the hamstring after just one AB (a double) and did not come back until yesterday.

And while some may question Soler's commitment, consider that he has come back from every injury in tremendous shape -- and the fact that he didn't look like he missed a day (the scout say he even looked better than the last time he saw him) is telling.  That doesn't happen by accident.  Soler was busy working on and even improving his game during his time off.

We have forgotten about the big Cuban RF'er and he's the "core 4" player that many fans think has the most bust potential for some of the reasons listed above.  But with his intelligent approach, ability to make contact,  explosive hands and enormous strength, he also has a ceiling that is as high as any Cubs prospect not named Javier Baez.  Remember that it was about a year ago this time when many of us were openly questioning whether he might just be the best prospect in the organization.

That mantle, however, may now have been passed to his teammate Bryant, though some have even expressed concerns about him.  A lesser concern is his ability to stay at 3rd base while of greater concern is his strikeout rate.  According to one scout, both of those worries are exaggerated.

He believes Bryant can play 3B for the next 10 years if needed.  He has shown good hands, a strong arm, and better mobility than you would expect from a player his size.  The Cubs have no plans to move him any time soon.

But it's the offense which generates the most excitement, even if the 27% strikeout rate has given pause for some fans.  According to the scout, however, Bryant has no problems recognizing breaking pitches, though he has struggled with offspeed stuff, particularly the change-up.  That is understandable when you consider he was playing at the University of San Diego just a year ago at this time.   There is a substantial difference in the quality of breaking balls and number of change-ups thrown in AA than there is in the West Coast Conference.  Bryant is learning.  Give him time.

He is an intelligent hitter and the scout remarked at how he was able to make adjustments, not just from AB to AB, but from pitch to pitch.  He doesn't see the strikeouts as a long term issue and that while he'll strike out some, he will bring it down in time -- and he even believes he can knock it down in the low 20s as he gains some experience later in his career.  That raised my eyebrows a bit as I would be happy with him knocking it down to 25% by the time he reaches the majors -- low 20s would make me ecstatic.

And that brings up another point.  Hitting in the minors isn't all that easy -- you are always seeing new pitchers, making it difficult to get a feel for how they are approaching you.  And it's for this reason that I think Bryant can benefit from a full year (or at least a half season) in AA.  It will give him the chance to continue gaining experience and making adjustments, to build on what he's learned instead of having to start over in AAA.  Perhaps a late season promotion is best, as we've seen the Cubs do with other prospects such as Soler and Baez, but I am in no hurry to rush Bryant and I hope the Cubs feel the same way.

Whatever the Cubs ultimately choose to do with Bryant, it seems he will have the intelligence and makeup to handle it.  But don't forget the 2nd half of the Smokies 1-2 power duo, Jorge Soler.  He has the power, skills and approach to someday join Bryant in the middle of that Cubs lineup.




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  • John, instead of using the the expression "you have the patience of a saint" I'm gonna start saying "you have the patience of John Arguello."

    I'd sure like to see a more aggressive approach in moving Bryant along and getting him up here. Is Bryant's only chance of playing in the big leagues THIS YEAR as a September call up? Is any sooner a realistic possibility?

    Bryant is 'pert near a man among boys in AA. He's 1st in OPB (.1.067), 1st in SLG, 3rd in OBp, 1st in HRs, 3rd in AVG (.328), 4th in RBI (24). Yes, he's 2nd in SOs (39), but should we be that concerned about SOs in light of that average?

    I hoping he get moved to AAA by early June. And if he performs similarly there for a month or two, give him a shot in the bigs.

  • In reply to TTP:

    Haha! i'm just cursed with seeing things in very big pictures. In this case, I'm thinking more about the organization as a whole and players career rather than what is going on with the team. Wanna make sure he is put in the best position to succeed before they bring him up to save the franchise.

  • I understand about not rushing kids as it can mess with their development (see George Springer), but saying Bryant should stay at AA until August because he needs to drop his K rate 2% points or do this or that isn't necessarily correct either.

    If he is putting up this kind of slash line in another 4 weeks (which equates to another 100 PA's or so), I think that it would show he is dominating this level and needs to be challenged.

    II think focusing on K rate alone is misleading as well. Soriano had a poor K rate AND a poor BB rate. KB has an awesome BB rate (around 15%) which means he is seeing pitches, which means he is working deep into counts which means he will K with some frequency. It is simply apart of his approach.

    Being a player that dominated in college, I don't think his development is at all like Almora, Soler or Baez. He is playing great ball right now. If he is dominating, then he needs to be promoted.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    What's the hurry?

    There is a balance to be sure but you have to make sure you develop the player and not just bump him when he is having success. To me that was one of Hendry's shortcomings and players never learned to make adjustments. By the time they got to the majors, it was too late.

    BTW, Soriano's career K rate is 21%, significantly lower than Bryant's.

    Bryant didn't get the chance to face top notch breaking stuff where he played college, nothing wrong with him learning and dominating a league for a whole year -- in fact, that is something this orgamization likes to see.

    Can't let impatience dictate proper development. The Cubs have benchmarks players need to reach before thy get promoted and I'm sure Bryant's contact rate is one of them. He doesn't need to drop it necessarily to a certain level -- but it has to trend in the right direction.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Not necessarily saying that I am in a rush (more like wishing).

    My analogy with Soriano wasn't necessarily the K rate, but that fact that KB strikes out a lot because he works the count and has a solid approach. Soriano and someone like Junior Lake seem to go up hacking and have little skills in pitch recognition. So if a guy is hitting .300, hitting for power, has a high BB rate, I am fine with a higher K rate.

    I have heard from Theo/Jed that they want guys to dominate at a level. Now again, whose definition of dominate do you use? And for how long? That probably ties into the benchmarks you mention.

    I question if in fact he needs a full year. You ask, what is the rush. I could also ask, why keep him at AA for a full season (assuming he is dominating)?

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    The reason for me is he's only seen these guys once or twice, would like to see him make adjustments and/or how he adjusts to pitchers making adjustments That is part of the challenge in baseball and one of the things that separates long term big leaguers from minor leaguers. I've never liked promoting minor leaguers before they had the chance to face pitchers a 2nd, 3rd time. That and cutting down the Ks, which goes hand in hand with those adjustments.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Fair comment about Soriano's career K rate of 21%.

    I just checked his minor league record and over 1,027 PAs, his K rate was just above 17%.

    Of course his career minor league OPS was a paltry .791, so he was no near the force that Bryant has been thus far.

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    In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    Remember the good ole days when all Corey Patterson had to do was sort of dominate a league for one half of a double header to earn his promotions?

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Good one

  • no rush. making sure he is ready is the smart thing to do.

  • In reply to CubfanInUT:


  • No matter how great a top prospects is he should never be
    brought up before the "Magic date" That is the date when his
    service time will not cost the Cubs a year. Its better to have
    a player for 6 yrs unstead of 5.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    That may be especially true with Boras clients!

  • Soler because of his contract and 40 man roster spot is the guy to fast track if his body holds up and he is productive, not like he is blocked by anyone on the MLB or even AAA level . His good approach at the plate leads me to believe he can handle it mentally , but he needs to stay on the field.

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    I would agree with this. And he has the mature approach to handle it. He sees a lot of pitches and makes good contact for a power hitter.

  • Bryant played for Oregon State, not San Diego State.

  • In reply to cubsin:

    No, both are wrong. He went to the University of San Diego - as it says in the article.

  • I don't think there is a wrong answer to how to develop Kris Bryant. If they brought him up tomorrow I think he would have issues but would hold his own and still develop into a great player. Leaving him in AA all year isn't going to hurt him either. He is going (or should) be the Opening Day 3B next year. Whether he spends the year making AA pitchers look bad or the second half of the year having growing pains against MLB hitters makes little difference in the long run. Guys that are as talented as Bryant, Baez and Soler sink or swim based more on how they handle themselves and how they approach the game more so than outside factors and how slowly/quickly they are brought along as far as I'm concerned.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Based on that analysis September seems like the ideal time to get bring Bryant up. He could then still get more reps at Iowa this year and at the start of next year if beneficial.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Agreed. If anything, it will be a reward for a great year (hopefully) and get him some experience of ML travel. What a big league schedule is like. Getting him in Chicago so he can check out the neighborhoods and get a feel for where he would want to live. How to handle himself on the road, all the challenges associated with being a pro-athlete (women, partying, hangers on, etc.). Baez might benefit from that as well.

    It's nothing specific to those two guys - but it would be nice to get their feet wet in advance of a full-time promotion.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for that to happen....

    What would we gain/benefit by giving him limited MLB AB's for a 30 day window? We would have to clear a spot on the 40 man prematurely. One can argue release Vitters/jackson, etc... but there will be others that have to be added to protect them from the rule 5 draft, etc.

    My point is there is lots of moving parts to this and potentially restricting Epstoyers roster moves by one spot to get Bryant 50 MLB AB's doesn't seem worth it to me in the long run.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Olt might have something to say about Bryant being the opening day 3B in Wrigley - if he continues to progress this year.

    I think it is more likely that Bryant is roaming RF sometime next season, than 3B. Longer-term (next 2-3 years), I suspect one of Beaz or Olt to be taking up residence at 3B, Soler and Bryant occupying the corner OF spots.

    But - that's just a guess.

  • when one considers that Soler power has essentially missed the last 6 months and comes back and is showing at least doubles power is quite impressive. The raw tools are there, now is time to work on the mental game.

  • I broke out in the biggest grin last night when I saw that Smokies box score. Both of these guys are going to make it if they can stay healthy. I guess Baez may have the lowest floor of the big four right now though Almora is a bit farther away. But as awsome as it would be to see these guys in Wrigley this year I can wait a little longer if it ensures the best result. I'll just revert back to my youth and concentrate on favorite player's performance. That Bill Madlock sure can hit can't he! Guess Griffey should have started game 162.

  • The ultimate goal of any prospect is not to just succeed at AA, or AAA, but rather to DEVELOP to succeed at the major league level.

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    Fantastic article. Do you ever see the strikeout culture changing? I was listening to George Brett on the DP show a couple weeks back and he cemented what I have long believed. Why are players OK with striking out 1 in 5 times at the plate? He said he used to have more home runs than he did strikeouts in a season. Is a 20% strikeout rate being the benchmark always going to be the norm for "power hitters?" On that note when you say 20% SO rate are you just saying you are happy with that number when he hits the major but you're hoping it drops as he naturally progresses? One of the reasons I love this blog is I am learning stuff about the game I never even conceived being important so all my questions are out or curiosity!

  • In reply to Brandon Halford:

    Just for clarification, Brett did have a low career strikeout rate, 8.7% (so/ab); and in 1980 he did actually hit more home runs, 24, than have strike outs, 22, but that was the only year he did it. His career home run rate was 3% (hr/ab).

  • I will take 100+ SO's with 20+ HR's

  • From what I've read (Law / Parks), Soler has problems making adjustments. Hopefully he and Bryant spend a lot of time discussing this and Bryant can impart some wisdom. Problem is that Bryant might not be at AA all that long - and Soler might be there all year.

  • In reply to Roscoe Village:

    I think that's probably due to his lack of experience and consistent playing time. i think if he stays healthy, he can improve.

  • In reply to Roscoe Village:

    I would keep Soler and Bryant joined at the hip as long as possible .Being in the same batting order and being around each other can only help them both.

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    It could be like a buddy movie. Soler and Bryant, and the hijinx they get into figuring out double A pitching as the season unfolds. "Hey, Oscar, get on deck!"

    AAA would be the sequel.

  • I think You can live with the high k's if bryant can be the next stanton. Stanton had similar strikeout rates.

  • In reply to Mitchener:


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    Great article.

    And couldn't agree more on the "no rush" approach.
    We shouldn't pretend a strong stat line means they don't have room or need to improve.

    I like Castro, but he was never really challenged at any level and has never played a single fame in Iowa.

    There's no way to know at this point but I think there's plenty if reason to believe he could be even better if they would've expected more from him like an improved BB% and defense at the lower levels, and taken the time to develop those tools.

  • In reply to Giffmo:

    I agree, what the heck is the hurry anyway? People just want to rush the prospects up no matter the long term damage it does to their development or lack their of. Only with Baseball players do people do this.

    What if Kris Bryant was a very bright medical student studying to be a Surgeon at an Ivy league school. He graduates from his highschool top of the class and gets a full medical scholarship to Harvard Medical. Being super bright he studies hard, gets high grades on his papers/assignments, get's A's on his exams, and then Aces his Mid-Terms. Would people start clamoring for him to be skip the rest of his classes, i.e. his development, so that he could become a MD already. After all he's aced all his classes so far, kickd but on his mid-terms...he's obviously going to be a great Surgeon, so what's the hold up? Have him start cutting people open already, what more could he possibly learn? Development is much more than the statistics that you are judged by, and skipping it effects you for a lifetime, their is no substitute, you can't just wing it because you are super talented, you have to put in the work.

  • In reply to Giffmo:

    That's a good point about Castro flying up the minors and not developing skills to help him work counts. We saw what happened when they tryed to push it last year. I do think though the purpose should be to make the pitcher throw you better pitches and that the BB% is just a result of that effort. I wonder if there is any other stat that might capture that better than BB%.

  • In reply to Giffmo:

    Thanks -- and I think Castro is a great example of a player who had to learn to make adjustments at MLB level.

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    I would think that - as we all know
    most prospects fail
    of the Core 4

    Bryant is the lock - looks like Evan Longoria
    pencil him in for the next 10 years.
    Probably the same with Baez - he may struggle with strike outs
    but will prob be OK.

    If you had to pick 2 of the "core four" failing I would say Almora
    and Soler. I still think Almora - could be all glove - .270 hitter in CF
    with no power - maybe a better version of Barney at 2nd?

    I just think Soler is an athlete not a ball player. ( adam eaton)
    Abreu and Puig have certainly made the jump a lot faster.

    hopefully thats not the case / hope Im wrong. - but well see.

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    In reply to deport soriano com:

    Abreau was signed at 27, Soler at 19. Stupid comparison and you know it.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    Also Abreu hasn't even played in the MLB for two months, who knows what can happen

  • Hopefully Soler stays healthy for the rest of the season. Saw him play Kane County a couple years ago and he hit an absolute bomb out of the park and showed off his cannon arm.

    Mark Gonzales mentioned Finnegan, Jackson and Freeland as possibilities in the draft. The new names seem to keep coming. Only a few short weeks until we find out

  • In reply to Javier Bryant:

    I think they keep coming up because they're recycled from the same sources (I think those are the BA names). I've heard differently on Jackson and I'd be shocked if the Cubs took a prep pitcher not named Aiken or Kolek.

  • Add Junior Lake to the list of Cubs skipping AAA (only 156 PA in Iowa) and learning in the Friendly Confines. Just something to keep in mind when you watch Junior's defensive adventures, overthrows, and struggles against anything but a fastball.

  • In reply to DropThePuck:

    Agree Puck, Junior is also learning at the big league level. Baez probably has close to as many AB's at AAA already compared to what Lake had (oh and in that short stint Lake hit .295 with .341 OB)

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