Within the contours of reasonable expectation (tough to delineate when a kid gets a 9-year, $30 million contract right out of Cuba), Jorge Soler’s debut in the United States has to be considered a success.
After an acclimation period in Mesa, Arizona, Soler started his career with 14 games in rookie ball, putting up a modest .241/.328/.389 for the AZL Cubs. From there, he was sent out on his real test: full-season A-ball in Peoria. It was expected to be a challenge, even for someone of Soler’s obvious raw talent, and he responded well. Over 88 plate appearances, the 20-year-old hit .338/.398/.513, striking out just six times (he walked six times, as well), and launching three homers and five doubles.
Further, and more importantly, Soler came in with the right attitude and work ethic that have his coaches believing he’ll fulfill the promise of his physical gifts.
“He’s a great kid. He walks into the room and the first thing you notice is that he’s a big, strong man,” Peoria Chiefs manager Casey Kopitzke told CSN’s Dave Kaplan. “He’s been a great pleasure to have. Watching him go about his work the way he has is real exciting. He has outstanding power and he is playing very well defensively for us and he has an excellent arm in right field.”
Soler’s hitting coach at Peoria, Barbaro Garbey, a fellow Cuban defector, also sees the talent and hard work, but cautions that it’s still going to be a long process of adjustment for the young outfielder.
“Soler is raw but that is because he knows nothing about baseball and the way that it is played in America, unlike players such as Sammy Sosa who came from the Dominican Republic where they were exposed to Major League Baseball,” Garbey told Kaplan. “Soler comes from Cuba, where you don’t see games from the US on TV. He doesn’t understand yet how hard you have to play every single day and what it takes to succeed in the big leagues but we are working with him everyday on what it takes on and off the field.
“Believe me, he is a great talent and he is the future for the Cubs, that kid. He still gets frustrated when he doesn’t get a base hit every time he is at the plate but he is working hard and he will get to the point where the people in Chicago are going to see a superstar pretty soon.”
For now, Soler is expected to participate in instructional ball in Mesa, with – I’m guessing – the possibility of playing winter ball in an organized league. If all goes well, developmentally, it’s a fair guess that he’ll start out 2013 in High-A ball (Daytona), with a chance to reach AA Tennessee if things go extremely well.