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While the offseason is rapidly approaching for the Chicago Cubs, it’s already here for the organization’s top prospects. While some, like top prospect Javier Baez, will head to the prospect-heavy Arizona Fall League, others will be heading to Arizona to participate in instructional ball.

At least one of the players headed to instructional ball just happens to be one of the next two top prospects in the Cubs’ system – outfielder Jorge Soler. The other, outfielder Albert Almora, could also be heading to Mesa.

On Soler, Cubs Scouting and Player Development Chief Jason McLeod recently discussed the immediate plans for the 20-year-old Cuban.

“[The instructional league is] more intensive instruction and more one on one,” McLeod told Sahadev Sharma. “You can really break down mechanics and zero in on areas for improvement. They play about three games a week, so you’re still getting live action. So he’ll get four weeks of instructional league, then an offseason strength and conditioning program.”

In total, it’s not a bad plan for a young man who is adjusting to life in the United States at the same time as he learns the professional game over here. Then again, Soler hasn’t played a whole lot of baseball in the last year, so I wouldn’t have hated to see him get a little more game action. McLeod told Sharma that Soler’s exclusion from the AFL was for precisely the opposite reason: because he’s played so little, the Cubs didn’t want him to subject him to the AFL (presumably because he might not yet be ready, and because they would be forgoing the one-on-one time by doing so).

But the Cubs’ affection for Soler is clear in McLeod’s words, if it wasn’t already clear in the $30 million contract they gave him earlier this year. Sharma’s piece is a good read for more from McLeod, and from Soler, himself.

McLeod isn’t the only one complimenting Soler, and Soler isn’t the only one coming in for compliments. Lee Tinsley, the organization’s outfield and baserunning coordinator, also has a great deal to say about Soler, and about Almora, too.

“They’re both kind of learning from each other,” Tinsley told Patrick Mooney. “It’s a really good combination.”

Of Soler, whom Tinsley calls “a beast,” the coordinator just says it’s a matter of time for Soler to break out at the plate, and in a corner outfield spot.

“You look at the size they tell you he is, and all of a sudden you look over and he looks bigger than that. But he hasn’t played a lot of outfield, and then going to a corner [spot is] going to be a little different for him.

“He just needs playing time. He’s going to be well on his way. He’s got power. He can run. He’s got a good arm. He’s got all the intangibles. He just needs more playing time.”

As for Almora’s defense, Tinsley’s reports are glowing.

“As a defender, he’s pretty polished,” Tinsley said of the Cubs’ top 2012 pick, which is something we heard going into the Draft. “[Especially] for that age, he’s got a good feel of reading the ball off the bat. He does things – he’s probably got maybe a half-step or a step into the swing [more] than most.

“[With] some outfielders, it’s off the bat and then they’re a little delayed with the read. But he’s gone when the ball’s off the bat. He’s already got a step.”

That explains how scouts concluded that, although Almora has only decent speed, he has tremendous range in center field.

“His baseball IQ is really good,” Tinsley went on. “He has an idea and a good feeling [for] being on the bases, [and] definitely a good feel in the outfield. He throws well. He’s accurate.”

You can thank Almora’s years on Team USA, as well as his unique dedication to baseball as he grew up, for that.

In both Almora’s and Soler’s case, it’s hard not to get excited each time you read more about them. I know, as perpetually hopeful Cubs fans, we’ve been of that bent for years, but the current crop at the top of the Cubs’ prospect list certainly seems even better than years past.

But young. Very, very young. And a lot can happen between now and when they finally arrive in the bigs. Of course, a lot of good stuff can happen after that, though.

  • Spriggs

    I can’t wait to see how these guys (Soler, Almora and Baez) progress through the system. I remember thinking about exactly the same thing that McLeod describes when you first see Solar in person. The guy is really put together. Just a marvelous looking athlete.

    I hope they are more patient with all 3 than I would be… Because like I say, I can’t wait.

  • WI Jeff

    I hope Soler is the “Best Beast” and contributes soon say early 2014.

  • DocPeterWimsey

    It is good to read that Almora gets a great read on the ball. Like batting eye, this is a greatly underappreciated fundamental tool: if you can just run to where the ball is going to land, then you’ll have plus range even without great speed or acceleration, and thus much longer into your career. My only question is, are Almora’s reads just as good from the corners and CF?

    • JR

      This is a tool that players like Campana don’t have at all. People think because Tony C. can haul a$$ he must be great defensively.. When actually he sucks.

      • art

        100% agree.

  • ETS

    Tinsley called Soler a “beast” not a “best”.

    • Ogyu

      As long as he’s not a bust…

      • donnie kessinger

        lol! – this!

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Thanks. Just a typo – though I wonder what it would take to call a kid “a best.”

  • Harry Ramirez

    “…But young. Very, very young”

    • Harry Ramirez

      “But young. Very, very young”
      Tonight
      We are young
      So let’s set the world on fire
      We can burn brighter
      Than the sun

  • Stevie B

    Don’t freak out when I group Volgelbach in with these guys, but I don’t think folks are giving Daniel the respect he deserves.
    If he can make it, we have Volgelbach, Baez, Castro, Solar and Almora as our core of potential every day players.
    What about Rizzo you ask?? Ask me in 3 years when we have that “problem.”
    As bad as this year has been, these names are enough to keep me pumped for a long long time.

    • JR

      Dude, obviously can rake but there seems to be some serious questions if he can play a decent every day first base. Which hurts his value some. But that dude can absolutely mash, which is the most important thing for sure..

    • Kyle

      Vogelbach does not belong in that list. He’s a 2nd-round pick who hit well at rookie ball. If we get two everyday players out of Soler/Almora/Baez/Vogelbach, we should consider ourselves very fortunate.

      • Spriggs

        You say Vogelbach shouldn’t be included in the list… then you lump him in anyway – by saying if any two of the four become everyday players we’ll be very fortunate. So does he belong or not? What gives?

        • Kyle

          The group in my post was “players the above poster put into his long-term lineup.”

          Vogelbach doesn’t belong with them in the sense of “these are all elite prospects.”

      • Stevie B

        Volgelbach has just as much a chance of succeeding as anyone in that group. Until a player hits .300/400/500 saying he wont is like prediction the winning lotto numbers.
        i agree, the CHANCE of 1 out of the 5 being a star is slim.
        Yet, people win the lottery every day now don’t they?

      • Chris

        Dan Vogelbach, meet Brian Dopirak… Then don’t fizzle out like he did.

      • JR

        I think people look down on Voges because of 2 things. 1. He looks like a big fat turd. 2. He sucks on dfence.
        The first reason is no reason to judge a first base base prospect who can hit like Dan. The second reason is.. That’s it. He looks as athletic as John Candy in Uncle Buck. So sure experts like Mayo aren’t going to jock him.. But Kyle he was the best hitter at Peoria too, not just rookie ball.

        • Kyle

          Vogelbach never played in Peoria this year. If he puts up a 1.000+ OPS in Peoria, he’ll get a lot more hype.

          It’s not just that Vogelbach is big and limited defensively. It’s that we don’t have that much evidence that he’s *that* good of a hitter. He’s not a Fielder-level, sure-fire hitter. Congratulations on smashing short-season ball, kid, but it takes a lot more than that to get people’s attention as a pure hitter.

          • JR

            My bad, I wanted to say Boise..

            • Stinky Pete

              I honestly mix up Boise and Peoria all the time. I do hope they move to Kane County.

        • Spriggs

          I think Vogie looks WAY more like Chris Farley than John Candy!

  • Mysterious4th

    I am so excited for these guys! I can’t wait to see these guys next year just to see the off season improvements! I know this waiting game and the bad seasons to go along with it sucks but it’ll be worth it when (say late ’13, early ’14) we start turning out good, solid players on a regular basis and not one every few years and have such high hopes for some decent players (I put vitters in this catagory).

  • Tim

    You know, one thing that really bothers me is when everyone is giving their assessments and predictions of future lineups, why does it seem as if everyone leaves rizzo out? Everyone has vogelbach playing first base in the future. i understand he has a long way to go and all that but i just dont get why nobody includes rizzo on their list. I mean the guy is hitting close to .300 with 12 home runs since being called up. i just don get it. do you all think he is going to be traded? i dont know if im missing something or what

    • Stevie B

      Tim, I’m talking prospects. Rizzo is our 1st baseman and I LOVE me some Rizzo. My question is, what are you going to do when / if Vogelbach turns into a Prince or Pujols?
      I by NO MEANS am dismissing Anthony. He is now my favorite Cub.

      • Spencer

        trade him.

        • Tim

          trade vogelbach or rizz

          • hansman1982

            If he turns out like Pujols or Fielder then you move Rizzo to LF. Odds are, if he makes it, he will become what Adam Dunn is this year – lots of power but nothing else. In that case, you ship him off to a team that wants a 1 dimentional player for someone who can upgrade you somewhere else.

      • Chris

        He’ll be traded. Hopefully by the time Vogelbach approaches AA, the Cubs will be ready to start acquiring other major league pieces, and Vogelbach would be a nice chip to include in any trade for another starting pitcher. This FO puts a premium on players being able to defend, so I just don’t believe Vogelbach will be a Cub, long-term.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        This is counting the chicken (er, moa?) long before it has hatched! Worry about it if it happens.

        • Cheryl

          Doc, I somewhat agreewith you for a change. We don’t know much about V yet so it’s too soon to automaticalyy say he’ll be traded. I think I remember someone saying he’s made only one error (I could be mistaken on that.) So to downgrade his defence is counting the chicken before it’s hatched. I’m told he also has a fantastic approach to batting, something the FO values. If he develops more in terms of power and hitting and is better at batting than Rizzo a few years from now and plays a satisfactory defence at first who do you give up – Rizzo or V?

          • art

            everyone is forgetting we may have the DH by then.

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

            Doc’s point is that the question is meaningless. We can’t project a guy who spent half a season in Short-Season A well enough to compare him to a guy who spent half a season in the majors. Now if Vogelbach were in Tennessee this season, or even Daytona, it would be a little different. But Boise is Chicago is a long, long, long, long step and there are far too many other moving parts that will change before that decision – if it ever becomes necessary – will have to be made.

            The Cubs are very fortunate in that they have a good, young first baseman in the majors and one of the better first base prospects in the low minors. I think we can allow ourselves to be happy about that for awhile.

            • Cheryl

              No, we can’t project, I agree with Doc there. We don’t know what V will be like. Even if the DH comes we may not know how good V will be a few years from now. But what would the Cubs choose if it came down to it – defence or hitting? That may be a valid question in the future, not now.

    • fortyonenorth

      If and when V-bach develops into a MLB-ready force, we’ll have a really nice problem on our hands. Let’s just hope it gets to that point. In the meantime, go RizzOMG.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        As someone who remembers pondering what we’d do with Cey when Tony Wood was ready or whether we’d move Ryno to 3rd when Griffin was ready, I concur.

        • Chris

          Wow, solid way-back names. I believe they settled on moving Ty Griffin to 3rd… Of course, they passed on Robin Ventura to take Griffin, even with Sandberg firmly entrenched at 2nd base.

  • Stevie B

    He is a solid 1st sacker. He just happens to be a fat ass, which eliminates him from playing anywhere else but there.

    • Chris

      If you stack his offense and defense up against Rizzo, he might have more power, but Rizzo wins out on all the other categories. While he’s not horrible at 1B, I wouldn’t think there are gold gloves in his future. And I agree, he won’t be moving to the OF. Seems to me it’s obvious he’s a trade candidate. If he hits in 2-3 more levels, it’ll be a nice problem for them to have.

  • Patrick G

    He does have major power though. Granted it was with a metal bat, kids a beast.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ulw6sJqW03A

  • sclem21

    JR, Vogelbach didnt even play in Peoria so I’m willing to go out on a limb and say he definitively was NOT the best hitter there…And for those anticipating Vogelbach turning into Pujols or Fielder…good grief. You have to pump the brakes. Appreciate what you have in Rizzo–a guy that looks like an All Star caliber 1B in his prime and stop trying to find room for him in left for a guy who hasn’t even made full season ball yet. Soler, Almora, Baez (and even Vogelbach to a lesser extent) are worthy of excitement…and also worthy of reason.

    • JR

      Yes, thank you. It was a mistake.. Thanks for going out on limb.

  • Rcleven

    We all know the scouting reports on Soler and Almora. Would love to hear more on Theo/Jeds pitching prospects.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I don’t disagree – I’d like to hear a scout’s take on how Johnson, Blackburn, Underwood, and McNeil looked. I’ve only heard very general stuff (Johnson looked like he looked his junior year – very good stuff, not ace type; Underwood has obvious projectables, but is extremely raw; etc.).

      • fortyonenorth

        Didn’t I see a superlative quote on one of Luke’s MILB updates regarding Johnson?

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

          Probably, but I doubt it was a specific one. We know the ceiling on those guys is high, but we don’t know quite how high. There may be a future ace in that bunch, but for now I’d play it safe and project them more as No 2 or 2/3 types.

          Johnson had drawn comparisons to Trey McNutt and Dillon Maples, and like those two guys his ultimate fate may depend on how well he is able to develop an off speed pitch.

          We should have a much better idea in eight or nine months.

  • Stinky Pete

    Got my order form for the BA prospect book 2013 today. Might just order it already…

  • die hard

    Hope and Change….the Cubs’ mantra for a century or more…gotta believe or else shrivel up and disappear…2013

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