Some perspective on the Entertaining Soler Practice News

Frankly, I was a little surprised by the local media hype surrounding Jorge Soler’s batting practice session yesterday. Even ESPN would have been proud.

I was as entertained as anyone by Soler’s batting BP performance.  In fact, that’s nothing new.  I’m always entertained when he, or anybody, hits long HRs in batting practice.  He even trounced fellow star power prospect Dan Vogelbach in a contest last fall, drawing oohs and ahhs from his own teammates with his prodigious shots.

But as Allen Iverson once famously said, “We’re talking about practice.”

I’m not trying to be a wet blanket here. I get it.  We Cubs fans are longing for a superstar.  As someone who writes about prospects often, I know it’s fun to dream on the possibilities. I do it all the time.

Even manager Dale Sveum said,

“It’s a pretty impressive batting practice for the first day out there,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of Soler. “The ball comes off his bat like you want a ball to come off the bat if you’re a manager.”

He also raved about his hand strength and the way he backspins the ball. He compared him to Cliff Floyd.  It only seemed to lend credence to the hype.

But did it?

What got lost in all the excitement was this

He’s still got to play and learn so much and face better pitching on a consistent basis and older pitchers who can do things,” Sveum said. “That experience factor comes in handy….”

And this…

“It’s nice to watch that kind of [batting practice], but until things happen in a game is when you see why things are breaking down or why you need to make this adjustment. Does he have plate coverage? Is his bat staying in the strike zone long enough to handle a cutter on the outside part of the plate? You can go on and on. “That’s why I’m really looking forward to games”

To Sveum’s points I would also add that it looks to me that Soler isn’t loading his hands quite as deep as when I saw him last season.  There’s no question he has the hand speed to still whip the bat through the zone — with or without the deep load — — but if he can still generate power with that quicker, more efficient load, it bodes well for his ability to make adjustments versus advanced pitchers.

I also mentioned yesterday that what pleased me most was Sveum saying Soler was using his lower half well.  It was good to hear not just because it will help him have better balance at the plate, but because that was something we noted he was working on last fall.  That he is doing it well enough already to impress his MLB manager shows he can learn and adjust quickly.

And that’s really what it’s all about when we talk about batting practice.  The long HRs are exciting and I have as much fun watching them as anyone but, when we talk about batting practice, what we’re really looking for here is whether he has the tools and skills that can potentially translate into power production down the road.  Notice that while Sveum praised Soler,  he was praising him for his raw skills/tools — his hand strength, the way he “backspins the ball”, the way he uses his lower half, etc.

But he also strongly cautioned that Soler has a long way to go and that we need to see him gain experience in games against live pitching.

Let’s not etch Soler’s name into the cleanup spot in the 2015 Cubs lineup just yet.  He still has yet to conquer Class A ball.  He should get a tough test if he starts with Daytona of the Florida State League as the Cubs are cautiously expecting.  As Javier Baez found out in his brief stint last year, it’s a pretty good pitcher’s league. 

We know Soler has all the tools plus all the the good, professional direction he’ll need to succeed in the Cubs organization. In fact, the latter is the main reason the Cuban star chose the Cubs.

“I felt they taught the game the right way,” Soler said through Cubs coach Franklin Font

Now he just needs the experience. Game experience.

Filed under: Analysis

Tags: Jorge Soler


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  • Many Cubs fans, including myself, have put the wagon before the horse plenty of times. It's hard waiting all these years for a Championship and hoping one player will emerge and lead us to the promised land.
    However, as these Cubs change, so must we as fans. We have to understand only a team will win the title, not an individual player. It's really hard not to get all caught up in the hype because I believe we all see some light at the end of the tunnel. We all must have patience and let these players develop and grow.
    That's exactly why I promised myself not to bitch and moan about trades, FA signings, etc. What ever Theo/Jed do is okay with me.
    Let's raise a Bud to our young Cubbies and hope the light at the end of a tunnel is not another train!

  • In reply to jaxx51:

    I'm guilty of it as well. I get as excited over prospects as much as anyone. I'm a huge Soler fan and I think the progress he's made is very exciting -- and I think the tape measure BP HRs are exciting -- but that hype was a little much for me. I thought there was too much focus on the wrong things. You said it best -- it's going to be all about patience with these young players.

  • In reply to jaxx51:

    I'll drink to that! But I might raise an Old Style.

  • In reply to Floyd Sullivan:

    Ahhhh - Old Pile-Doggie Style! I have to pick up some for spring training..

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    I remember seeing somewhere that Soler is quite coach able and a hard worker. That seems backed up by what you've written here.

    That seems to me to be the biggest takeaway. We've had a ton if guys with the tools before. But if Soler is willing to learn and adapt, he could be more than the next Earl Cunningham. (Dating myself a bit with that one.)

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    Coach able = thank you iPhone spellcheck.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    Earl Cunningham - love the reference (not really I guess, as it's kind of depressing). But, you can put him right up there with Ryan Harvey and Brooks Kieschnick, as well.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Oooh...Cunningham, that's a painful memory. Ryan Harvey was another BP champion.

    I think we can have realistic hope that Soler doesn't fall into that category. The coachability as you state, is one reason. I also like the way he generates power. He does it easily, especially with the adjustments he seems to have made so far.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Yes John, Cunningham, and Harvey were busts. But even at A ball you could see Cunninghams struggles. Harvey even in the minors was an all-or-nothing hitter. the early looks at Soler are encouraging, especially considering the amount of time he missed while his contract was being negotiated.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    Oh I agree. Cunningham and Harvey serve as basic cautionary tales, but I wouldn't compare them to Soler as ballplayers.

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    Its always fun to get excited about prospects and think about what great major leaguers they will be. But, as you point out, you have to take this stuff with a grain of salt. Especially something as isolated and non-game related as batting practice. I remember watching the great Glenallen Hill put on incredible exhibitions in batting practice - just launching bombs out of the park. But, they don't have a section in the Hall of Fame for batting practice stats.

  • In reply to Tom Wozniak:

    I know what you mean. I made the mistake of getting a little too excited about Taiwan Easterling after I saw him sting the ball in batting practice a few times. But he just wasn't the same hitter against live pitching. Hoping he improves next year.

    Anyway, that's why I like to focus on the process when I'm watching Soler -- or Jackson, for that matter. BP results don't mean much. It's how they're getting the results that matter.

  • I'm not going to let you kill my irrational exuberance with such things like data and perspective Arguello! As a Cubs fan, I've seen enough to go ahead and waive Soler through to Cooperstown!

  • In reply to Ryno2Grace:

    Haha! This made me laugh...why does this happen so often just as I'm going to put food or drink in my mouth?

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    In reply to Ryno2Grace:

    Pretty much describes Cubs fans to a tee lol

  • I like HRs as much as the next guy but grinding out ABs is maybe more important. If Darwin B can grind out ABs, get his average up, and get a lot of walks to get his OBP in the .350 to .380 range, he would just be incredibly valuable. He doesn't need to hit a lot of HRs. Every team needs a couple players like that. Whether ours will be Logan Watkins or M Sczur or Barney, it does not matter who, we need them. It looks like the Cubs will have plenty of power in a few years.

  • In reply to John57:

    Agreed, we need to see more players work the count and make pitchers throw more....and hopefully draw some walks in the process.

    I will say that out of the Cubs top 3 prospects, Soler has the best plate discipline. He's got a nice approach up there, sees quite a few pitches. Makes pretty good contact so he often put the ball in play, but he'd get himself into some pretty nice counts. I think he'll walk more as he develops.

  • In reply to John57:

    If Baez, Soler work out and Rizzo continues to improve, Castillo becomes a 20HR plus type catc her, they sure will. Championship teams need at least a minimum of 3 power hitters(ask Whitey Herzog, who insect-ball Cards teams most always found ways to lose the Series)

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    I also think Castro, Almora, Vogelbach could possibly add power too.

  • In reply to John57:

    Think NY Yankees-like them or not, virtually all there hitters make the pitcher work. How many 3-2 hits has Jeter had in his career?

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    Soler strikes me as that kind of player that has a certain demeanor at the plate that makes pitchers fear throwing them mistakes. He comes off like "You better not throw me anything over the plate or I will destroy it, if not I'll take every pitch until you do or you walk me". The best comps I can think of for this mindset are Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera. He'll be in control of the sequence and wait for his pitch. Not saying Soler will be that good but he just has that kind of aura at the plate.

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    In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    To put it in a more understandable way, Soler has a presence at the plate that you can't teach or explain. Just like some select pitchers have a certain mound presence, like Mariano Rivera.

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    In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    I have to imagine his body mass is intimidating in and of itself.

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    I do think he'll draw his share of walks and that's an interesting perspective. He definitely has a presence at the plate and that may have an affect on the pitcher's approach. He's also patient enough to let some of those go by. Its early, but he has the makings of a nice approach.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    What is Soler, 6'4" , 205 or so? And only 21`? This kid in several years will likely be built like Mark McGwire w/o the juice. Sure hope he hits like McGwire did.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    He's big and he's got the athletic body frame of a superhero. He's gonna be a monster if he puts it together.

  • Difference between Soler and Iverson is Soler actually does practice.

  • I could laugh out line drives one after the other in batting practice and against weak pitchers. I was an easy out in the games facing a good pitcher.

  • Seemed like Baez struggled because of his aggressiveness and relying to much on his raw talent. He has that mentality like he can hit anything thrown near him.

    i believe Soler will wait on his pitches more than Baez. Also isn't the Cuba league considered about High A talent, so it really shouldn't be a problem for Soler.

  • In reply to Mitchener:

    I think both will hit in Daytona. Hopefully Baez learned a little about how more advanced pitchers will approach him.

    Some say the Cuban major league is much like adv. Class A, but Soler played in the equivalent of their minor leagues. Want to point out also that the Class A analogy is a loose comparison. There are players there like Cespedes who are already MLB level. It's a mix of talent.

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    I simply can't understand why anyone gets excited over batting practice HR's. BP is what, 50-60 miles per hour pitches? My 12 year old throws mid 50's, would we get hyped over a guy that hits home runs off a 12 year old? Same with the home run hitting contest at the all-star game - I don't know which is more boring and overhyped, that or the slam dunk contest.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    I still like it, but not for the reasons it was so hyped. You can learn a bit about their swing, the way the ball comes off their bat, but yeah, it doesn't tell you a lot about whether they can hit live pitching.

  • BP results are about as meaningful to MLB regular season results as the bunting tournament is..... Which is an irony itself considering the number of circumstances where a well placed could have been a difference in a game last year.....

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    "well placed **bunt**"....

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    Breaking news: Tony Campana traded to Arizona minor league right-handed pitchers Erick Leal and Jesus Castillo.

    Kind of surprised we were able to get 2 pitchers for Campy. Wonder how good(or bad) they are. Expecting an article up soon?

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    oops I guess I should refreshed my puter before I posted beat me by 9 minutes

  • In reply to Marcel Jenkins:

    Looks like we got some serviceable young arms for TC. Just didn't have a future with this team since he couldn't get on base.

    Wish him well, and hopefully one of these youngsters can pan out.

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    In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    Hoyer has already said both are projectable and sees them as future major leaguers. He also says Veal should start in the minors which is encouraging.

  • John, I have no choice but to be patient, but how long will we have to wait for Soler, Almora, and Baez? Because even they get to the show in 2015, I assume we'll still have a to wait another 2 or 3 years before they become impact players, so that means we're talking about another 5 or six year wait and, gosh darn it, that just seems too long.

    Is the talent level of MLB that much better now than, for example, in the 60s and 70s. Santo was in the bigs in 1960, just one year out of high school, Billy Willams at age 21, Bench at age 19 and starting 154 games at age 20, Brooks Robinson at 18 and a starter at 21. The list goes on and on as to the top guys a few generations ago being up in late teens and certainly by 21. Why not now with our top guys?

  • In reply to Nondorf:

    Actually, no. MLB had far fewer teams in 1960, so you had to be a top-tier talent to make it. No one ever questioned Benchs arm or power, even when Cincy signed him. Ronnie always had bat speed, and they didn't call Billy Williams sweet-swingin, Billy for nothing. You also have better options in other sports today than in 1960. Probably a few decent NBA power forwards who make good starters(remember Scott Burrell-could throw a high 90s FB, yet went to the NBA rather than baseball)

  • A little off topic but I just saw where Campana was traded to the Diamondbacks for 2 17 year old DSL pitchers.

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    The Cubs today acquired minor league RHPs Erick Leal and Jesus Castillo from the Arizona Diamondbacks for OF Tony Campana. Both pitchers played for the Dominican Summer League Diamondbacks last season. Leal, 17, went 6-2 with a 2.44 ERA, 70 strikeouts and 11 walks in 14 appearances (12 starts, 70.0 IP), while Castillo, 17, went 2-4 with a 5.40 ERA, 41 strikeouts and 17 walks in 14 appearances (8 starts, 46.2 IP). - "From the Chicago Cubs Facebook Post"

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    Yep - here's the release via the D'backs & Arizona Republic

    D-backs acquire Tony Campana from Chicago Cubs

    The Arizona Diamondbacks (@Dbacks) announced they have acquired outfielder Tony Campana (@TonyCampana1) from the Chicago Cubs in exchange for right-handed pitchers Jesus Castillo and Erick Leal. The announcement was made by D-backs Executive Vice President & General Manager Kevin Towers.

    Campana, 26, hit .264 (46-for-174) with 5 RBI and 30 stolen bases in 89 games with the Cubs last season, and .280 (40-for-143) with 18 stolen bases in 37 games with Triple-A Iowa. He tied for second in the National League in stolen base percentage (90.9), tied for third in bunt hits (8) and ranked ninth in steals.

    The 5-foot-8, 165-pounder has appeared in 184 games in 2 seasons with the Cubs (2011-12), batting .262 (83-for-317) with 11 RBI and 54 stolen bases. Since 2011, Campana's 91.5 stolen base percentage (59 attempts) ranks second in the Majors behind the Padres' Everth Cabrera (92.0) and his 16 bunt hits are tied for sixth.

    Campana, who was selected by Chicago-NL in the 13th round of the 2008 First-Year Player draft, is a career .301 hitter (397-for-1,321) with 162 stolen bases in 5 Minor League seasons in the Cubs' organization.

    Leal, 17, went 6-2 with a 2.44 ERA (19 ER in 70.0 IP) in 14 games (12 starts) with the Dominican Summer League D-backs. He signed with Arizona as a non-drafted free agent on Sept. 14, 2011.

    Castillo, 17, was 2-4 with a 5.40 ERA (28 ER in 46.2 IP) in 14 games (8 starts) with the DSL D-backs. He signed with Arizona as a non-drafted free agent on Aug. 27, 2011.

  • In reply to jaxx51:

    Funny how the D'backs omitted OBP and Slugging % for Campana....nothing like a positive spin to sell to the fans !

  • Does anyone else just love the sound of a ball hitting a wood bat in mid-February?

  • Many players that can hit it out of the park in batting practice are not able to hit it out in games.

    But very few players that can NOT hit it out of the park in batting practice are able to hit it out in games.

  • Article on Campana trade with details on the two prospects is up. Took me a little while to get the post out there, but wanted to give you guys the lowdown on the pitchers.

  • Reminds me of how you were talking about if you watched Taiwan Easterling's batting practice, you'd come away thinking he was the star player. Lot different than game situation. Though I gotta admit that Cliff Floyd comparison made my ears perk up. Remember how scared first basemen used to get when Floyd came to bat? Lol.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    What a shame he had health problems. When he first came up to the bigs youd have thought he could write his own ticket to Cooperstown.

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