Thursday, March 14, 2013
Soler is big part of Cubs' future OF
By Jason Catania
Intrigue accompanied Cuban prospect Jorge Soler when he signed with the Chicago Cubs last summer for $30 million over nine years, and it's only growing now that he's in his first big league spring training.
The 6'3", 205-pound Soler put on a show in his first spring batting practice last month, drumming up even more interest, as Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune writes.
But while there's plenty of excitement around Soler's future, the Cubs seem intent on tempering expectations, especially with regard to Soler's chances of making his big league debut at any point in 2013. As far as putting Soler on the "fast track" to the majors, manager Dale Sveum said, "There's no reason to do that. He still has to play and learn so much and face better pitchers on a consistent basis, older pitchers who can do things. That experience factor comes in handy."
Sullivan notes that Soler, who turned 21 last month, is likely to begin the year at High-A Daytona. If he performs, a midseason promotion to Double-A would be expected, and Soler could put himself in position to really battle for a job next spring.
Remember, Alfonso Soriano has only two years remaining on his eight-year contract, and he's a perpetual trade candidate; David DeJesus has a club option for $6.5 million in 2014 that could be bought out for $1.5 million; and Nate Schierholtz only signed for one year this winter. In other words, jobs will be opening up. Like, soon.
A year from now, the Cubs outfield competition could include a bunch of prospects like Soler, Matt Szczur and Brett Jackson, whose re-tooled swing is still a work in progress, according to ESPN Insider Keith Law.
Jackson's not the only top prospect in the Cubs system with " target="_blank">questions about his swing, as Jim Bowden of The GM's Office writes.
Keith LawSoler: No. 42 in Keith Law's Top 100 Prospects
"Soler only played 34 games last summer after signing, but it's a point in his favor that he struck out just 19 times even though he hadn't faced live pitching on a regular basis in nearly two years. At just 21 this year, he should be able to get to Double-A with the upside of an above-average regular in right who should peak in the 25-30 home run range."