Periodically, Baseball America will take a look at a prospect who is either just arriving to the majors or on the cusp of the majors to give a look at what can be expected from them both as a player and for fantasy purposes.
The 22-year-old Cuban will join Javier Baez, Arismendy Alcantara and Kyle Hendricks as part of a rebuilding Cubs team that in 2015 will likely also feature minor league player of the year candidate Kris Bryant.
Part of the Cubs’ own “core four” with Bryant, Baez and outfielder Albert Almora, Soler first got noticed in 2010 while playing for Cuba’s junior national team in the World Junior Championship. He defected in 2011 and the Cubs signed him in 2012 to a nine-year, $30 million deal that included a $6 million bonus.
The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Soler has power to all fields, but has had his season shortened by hamstring injuries. The Cubs have helped tighten up his swing from 2013 when he played for high Class A Daytona, when his swing had a lot of moving parts. According to one manager who saw him in the Florida State League, Soler’s swing would “break down.”
But as shown from his 2014 production, the Cubs have improved his swing mechanics to make him more consistent, leading to a .340/.432/.700 slash line with 15 homers and 57 RBIs in just 62 games across three levels.
He struggled a bit—for him this season—when he first joined Triple-A Iowa, hitting .286 with three homers through 10 games, but Iowa hitting coach Bryan Harper told milb.com that they worked on an adjustment, and Soler ended his Triple-A stay by hitting .550 with three homers and 10 RBIs in his final 10 games, including an opposite-field home run off Tacoma’s Taijuan Walker on Monday night.
Soler is an athletic but average defender, although according to one manager the knock on Soler’s reputed lack of effort comes from how easily he does his job.
“He doesn't have Bryant or Baez power, but still has wow power,” a rival PCL manager said. “With those guys on his team, you don't notice his power quite as much as you would.”
WHAT TO EXPECT
Soler’s 22, but because of injuries and two suspensions in 2013, he has only 544 minor league at-bats, so his learning curve, especially in the majors, is going to be greater than that of Baez, who’s showing power but striking out nearly 50 percent of the time, or even Bryant, who has college experience behind him.
One PCL manager said Soler will probably need 300 to 400 more at-bats to stabilize his approach, which is unusually controlled for a former Cuban junior national team member. Soler has struck out 105 times in his minor league career, opposed to 66 walks, so he does a good job of making contact—and hard, consistent contact.
Another PCL manager said Soler had 70 power on the 20-80 scout scale, just a notch below Bryant.
He’s been red hot of late at Iowa, so a fantasy owner who grabs him could see a spurt of power, but although Soler is an efficient baserunner (17 of 20 in his career), he did not attempt a steal this year, in part because of hamstring issues and likely because the Cubs did not want to risk another injury.