Jorge Soler may have taken his final swing in AAA on Monday night and he made it count, a three-run homer of Mariners top pitching prospect Taijuan Walker. Soler hit the blast in the top of the third and never left the dugout after getting word he had been promoted to Chicago and will join the Cubs in Cincinnati on Wednesday for the MLB debut.
Most of Soler’s season has been spent rehabbing hamstring injuries but when he’s gotten on the diamond, the 22-year-old Cuban has been special. In 22 AA games, Soler hit .415/.494/.882 with six homers, nine doubles and a triple. He also walked 12 times with 15 strikeouts. He was promoted to Iowa on July 23 and in 32 games, the right-hander power hitter batted .282/.378/.618 with 8 HR, 11 doubles, and 29 RBI.
Standing 6-foot-4, Soler is an imposing figure in the batter’s box but has the patience of a leadoff hitter, showing discipline and ability to lay off pitches out of the zone. When he does swing, balls fly off the bat and has shown power to all fields. In 544 at-bats in three minor league seasons, Soler hit .307/.383/.551 with 28 HR and 117 RBI.
Considered one of the top talents to come out of Cuba, Soler starred In Cuba’s 16U and 18U leagues from 2008-10, playing in tournaments in Mexico and Ontario. Soler impressed in at Thunder Bay in 2010 (.304/500/.522) in seven games, walking nine times, at the 18U World Championships. Not many other teams names were mentioned when it came to signing Soler, as some reports had the Cubs with a deal before he ever was declared a free agent by MLB. On June 30, 2012, just days before the new international signing rules took effect, the Cubs locked Soler up through the 2020 season and placed him on the 40-man roster.
Soler was sent to Mesa and on July 19 made his Cubs debut against the Mariners going 0-3. Three days later he blasted his first homer and the Jorge Soler watch had begun. He got 54 at-bats (.241/.328/.389) in the Arizona Rookie League before being promoted to Peoria, making his MWL debut at Burlington, Iowa on Aug. 10, delivering a two-run single. He racked up 80 at-bats in 20 games at low Class A, hitting .338 with 3 HR and 15 RBI. He ended his first pro year at (.299/.369/463) with 5 HR, 25 RBI, 12 SB, and 12 BB in 134 at-bats.
The Cubs got Soler plenty of playing time in spring training in 2013, appearing in 17 games and getting 36 at-bats. He had his average up to .304 after a homer against the Padres but went just 2-16 in his final five games to finish his first spring training at (.222/.282/.389). He got off to a hot start in Daytona hitting .435 with two homers and four RBI in six games before he gained national attention in an altercation on April 10.
After attempting to break up a double play, Soler and Clearwater second baseman Carlos Alonso exchanged words and both benches emptied. After getting back to the dugout, Soler grabbed a bat and started towards the Clearwater dugout before being restrained by teammates, including fellow Cuban Frank Del Valle. Soler was suspended five games and the Cubs sent him to Mesa during the suspension. “He’s remorseful about what happened and was very apologetic,” Cubs President Theo Epstein said after the incident. “He understands this can’t happen again. We condemn the act but support the player.” Epstein said it was the Cubs responsibility to work him to make sure he has a better way to channel his emotions on the field and make sure something like this doesn’t happen again. Contrary to some reports, Soler never swung the bat at any of the Clearwater players nor did he swing and break the bat near the dugout. He never got past the home plate area before the bat was taken away and he was restrained by teammates.
Soler returned to the lineup April 18, extended his hitting streak to 10 games, and earned FSL Player of the Week honors on May 6-12. Soler started in right field for the North Division in the Florida State League all-star game on June 15 and left in the second inning. It was the last game he played during the regular season. The 21-year-old Cuban was sent back to Chicago and it was discovered he had a stress fracture in his left tibia, and spent the rest of the year in a walking boot. It was also revealed the injury happened in spring training on a foul ball off the leg. Soler played 55 games with the injury in Daytona, hitting .281/.343/.467 with eight homers and 35 RBI. He hit .377 against left-handers and swiped five bases.
Soler got some of those at-bats back in the Arizona Fall League but drew criticism from scouts and got labeled for not hustling and running hard on grounders. It was learned after the AFL, the Cubs told Soler to “take it easy” and not put any unneeded stress on the healing leg. He hit in 18 of the 20 games and finished with a slash line of .271/.311/.376 in 85 at-bats.
Back at spring training for his second year but only got nine at-bats before suffering a hamstring injury. He broke camp and headed to AA but after a double in his first-at bat, pulled up at second with a hamstring injury. He missed over a month and returned to the Tennessee lineup on May 8, going 2-for-2 with two RBI and two walks. He played five more games and after making a running catch in right-center, fell to the ground with a right hamstring injury. The Cubs sent the outfielder to Mesa and put him on a program to keep him hydrated and strengthen his hamstrings. After 25 at-bats in Mesa and some one-on-one coaching from Manny Ramirez, Soler returned to AA on a mission.
In 15 games for Tennessee, he terrorized Southern league pitching, hitting .463/.538/.1.000 with six homers and 15 RBI. He was promoted to Iowa on July 23 and by the time the month was over, was named the Cubs Minor League Player of the Month for July.
The only knock on Soler has been the injury problems but with his play in Iowa, seems to be past those issues. He will improve the Cubs outfield defense as he has good speed, shows the ability to make plays, and has the arm to play right.
Soler’s minor league days are over as he should be the Cubs’ starting right fielder when the 2015 season opens.