New York Yankees: Comparing Jorge Soler to Major Leaguers

Phillip BrownSenior Analyst IIFebruary 15, 2012

New York Yankees: Comparing Jorge Soler to Major Leaguers

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    The New York Yankees are reportedly very interested in highly touted 19-year-old Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler.

    Earlier today it seemed as if Soler was headed to the Chicago Cubs when he reportedly signed a four-year $27.5 million deal, but those reports were proven false.

    If that is indeed the asking price for Soler, would he be worth it? The best way to figure that out is to compare him to major league players.

    What type of player does Jorge Soler project to become?

    Let's find out.

Worst Case Scenario: Bill Ortega

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    Who is Bill Ortega?

    Bill Ortega was signed as an international free agent out of Cuba by the St. Louis Cardinals in 1997. He had a lot of talent and potential, but he could not translate his skill to the majors.

    Ortega debuted in 2001 and played in only five major league games, all as a pinch-hitter. He batted 1-for-5 with a strikeout in his very short stint in the majors.

    If Jorge Soler's talent cannot translate to the majors, he could very well be a bust like Bill Ortega.

Best Case Scenario: Justin Upton

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    Justin Upton is a budding major league superstar. At only 24 years old, Upton hit .289 with 31 home runs, stole 21 bases and played superb defense in 2011 for Arizona.

    Upton can hit anywhere from second to fifth in the Diamondbacks' lineup, but he is most suited at third because of his rare contact/power combination.

    If Jorge Soler reaches his ceiling those are the type of numbers you can expect. The chances of him doing this are small but he has incredible tools, and at only 19 years old he has time to develop in the minors before reaching the majors.

    Soler can become a Justin Upton-type player; he just has to work on his pitch recognition and contact skills while he is in the minors.

Likely Scenario No. 1: Brett Gardner

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    Jorge Soler is from Cuba, where the pitchers are subpar, to put it nicely.

    Cuban League pitching is often compared to Single-A pitching. That means there is a good chance if Soler's bat never develops on the major league level, he could easily become a .260 hitter with 10 home runs per year.

    Brett Gardner is considered one of the best defensive outfielders in the majors and stole a total of 96 bases over the last two seasons.

    Gardner does have some major flaws, mainly due to his .264 batting average and 15 career home runs over his 492-game career; Gardner is not strong in the batter's box.

    Despite this, Soler's defense and speed will easily translate. The outfields in Cuba and Yankee Stadium are pretty much the same, and the distance between first and second base is still 90 feet.

    I have no doubt that his speed will translate to the majors—making him a great defensive outfielder and base-stealer.

Likely Scenario No. 2: Alex Gordon

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    Alex Gordon won a 2011 Gold Glove because of his strong arm and good defensive skills, but he is not a one-dimensional player. Gordon also hit .303 with 23 home runs and stole 17 bases in 2011.

    Gordon is a true five-tool player with good defensive skills, a great arm, good power, a good batting average and nice speed. I would be very pleased if Jorge Soler became a player similar to Gordon.

    Soler may not have the contact skills and pitch recognition of Gordon just yet, but he has the potential to be just as good as—or better than—Gordon in the next four or five years.

Likely Scenario No. 3: B.J. Upton

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    I think B.J. Upton is the best comparison to Soler among major league players.

    Upton has the speed and raw tools to be just as good as his younger brother but he just cannot seem to put the entire package together.

    Upton has averaged 41 stolen bases over the last four years and has 25 home run power but he does not have the contact skills needed to become an elite player. Upton is a career .257 hitter so far in his six year career.

    B.J. Upton uses his elite speed to be a good defender but he takes bad angles and is not the smartest defensive outfielder and it results in a slightly above average defensive outfielder.

    Soler also has that type of speed and power but like Upton I question his ability to hit for average against major league pitching. He definitely has the speed to play in center field like Upton but who knows if he is a smart defensive player since not many scouts have seen him play extensively.

    If I had to project what type of player Jorge Soler will be at the major league level it would be B.J. Upton. The fit is just too perfect.