Despite another losing season, there is no shortage of buzz surrounding the Chicago Cubs this season, thanks to what may be the best farm system in all of baseball.
Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara have already worked their way into the everyday lineup, and outfielder Jorge Soler is set to join them, as he will make his major league debut on Wednesday night.
"I think it's pretty exciting for the whole organization," manager Rick Renteria told Carrie Muscat of MLB.com. "A young man that's been talked about quite a bit will be joining us tomorrow. Everybody's pretty excited about it."
The 22-year-old Cuban defector may not be entering the league with the same level of hype that surrounded his fellow countrymen Yasiel Puig, Yoenis Cespedes and Jose Abreu, but he has a chance to be every bit as good as those guys long term.
The Cubs handed Soler a nine-year, $30 million contract on June 11, 2012, after he established residency in Haiti, and he joined their Arizona Rookie League affiliate a little over a month later.
Unlike the aforementioned trio of Cuban-born bats, Soler was far from a finished project when he made his way to the States, and the Cubs knew that when they signed him.
Nonetheless, he opened his first full professional season with High-A Daytona in 2013, entering the year as the No. 34 prospect in all of baseball, according to Baseball America.
The early returns were promising, and he looked to be ticketed for a call-up to Double-A at some point in the second half, but his season came to a premature end on June 13 when he suffered a fractured left tibia.
The Cubs ticketed him for the Arizona Fall League to make up for lost time, where he hit .271/.311/.376 with seven extra-base hits and 14 RBI in 20 games.
That was enough for him to get the bump up to Double-A Tennessee to kick off this season, and he remained among the top 50 prospects in the game in the No. 41 spot, according to Baseball America.
The injury bug would bite again, though, as a pair of hamstring injuries limited him to just seven total games over the first two months of the season.
He finally returned healthy on June 21, and he's hit .341/.435/.710 with 16 doubles, 15 home runs and 50 RBI in 55 games leading up to his call-up.
All told, his minor league stats were as follows:
|Jorge Soler Minor League Stats|
Tremendous raw power was what made Soler such a highly coveted commodity coming out of Cuba, and power remains his most valuable tool at this point in his career, but he should round into a solid all-around player.
He's shown solid plate discipline and a willingness to draw a walk during his time in the minors, as his hit tool has come along as well as anyone could have hoped given the fact that he was relatively unpolished.
Defensively, he moves well in the outfield and has a cannon for an arm, which should play well in right field. He has decent speed and certainly won't clog up the bases, but stolen bases will probably never be a significant part of his game.
Let's turn to the experts for some other scouting insights.
Keith Law of ESPN in his Midseason Top 50 prospect rankings (insider required):
Soler is a monster if he can just stay on the field. He has electric bat speed, plus-plus raw power and the athleticism and arm to play an above-average or better right field...While he's been injured too often for me to rank him higher, he has the raw offensive ability to be a top-10 prospect if he gets the at-bats to work on his recognition of offspeed stuff.
Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com's Prospect Watch:
Soler has big raw power, and he drives the ball to all fields. He has a good approach at the plate, and he shows a willingness to take a walk. (He) has a strong arm, and he covers ground well in right field. While his makeup has been questioned at times, he is still young, and he profiles well as a prototypical right fielder.
Conclusion/What to Expect
Soler will now have a month to get his feet wet, with an eye on handing him the everyday right field job to open the 2015 season.
He's been on an absolute tear in Triple-A recently, going 10-for-16 with three home runs and 10 RBI in his last four games, so he has plenty of momentum to carry into his first taste of big league action.
For those of you playing fantasy baseball and looking to lock down a playoff spot, taking a flier on Soler might not be a bad idea, as he's capable of doing some serious damage as a run producer if he stays hot.
Javier Baez burst onto the scene earlier this month with a game-winning home run in his debut and a two-homer game two days later, and it's not fair to expect the same immediate impact from Soler.
However, Soler should provide more of a consistent offensive presence, as opposed to the all-or-nothing approach that Baez has brought.
Baez has seven home runs in his first 21 games, but he's hitting just .198 and has struck out a dizzying 40 times in 86 at-bats.
There is no shortage of excitement on the North Side these days, and a big final month from Soler would only add to that. This is a team with a real shot at contention in 2015 if its young guns can take a step forward, and Soler is a huge part of that.
It all starts on Wednesday, when he'll don the Cubbie blue for the first time in Cincinnati.