Overhyping prospects is much a Spring rite as over-interpreted Spring Training stats, sunshine, and tube tops. So, with several top youngsters in camp this year, a hype train was sure to develop.
Right now, the train is firmly attached to Jorge Soler’s caboose. (Or the train is his caboose. However you want to frame that metaphor.)
From the moment he arrived at Spring Training and unleashed a ridiculous batting practice show, Soler has turned heads, particularly those that hadn’t already been fixed upon him. Ken Rosenthal is happy to jump aboard:
So, to the Chicago Cubs official who asked me with a smile, “Don’t crank up the hype machine too far,” I can offer only one possible response:
Your own players are doing the cranking!
“He’s legit, a physical specimen, impressive bat speed — and a rocket arm, too,” outfielder Scott Hairston says.
And left fielder Alfonso Soriano, who knows something about phenoms — remember his two homers and MVP performance in the 1999 Futures Game at Fenway Park? — sounds equally excited.
“He’s going to be something,” Soriano says.
The player in question, outfielder Jorge Soler, turns 21 on Monday. Recently, club president Theo Epstein said to one of the Cubs’ veterans, “Not bad for a 20-year-old, huh?”
“Twenty?” the player replied. “I thought he was 25!” …
“What has been really impressive, all last year and so far in camp, is how into defense and baserunning he is,” Epstein says. “He shows a really good first step in the outfield, takes good routes and has a plus arm with a lot of accuracy and carry. He also has showed a real interest in stolen bases. He was almost perfect last year (12 for 13).”
Rosenthal ends noting that he’s not trying to “crank up the hype machine,” but he can’t help it given what Cubs people are saying. That’s nice to hear. The article is a good read, especially if you want to get even more excited about Soler.
In some ways, the Soler hype isn’t your typical unreasonable, irrational Spring affection. Because Soler was simultaneously more advanced than your typical “new” prospect, and also more unknown, even brief flashes in the Spring offer us more information than they might for other players. Soler didn’t play competitively for a year and a half before debuting in the Cubs’ system late last year. Then, he got just 149 plate appearances in which to make an impression. The returns were positive, but it still wasn’t a whole lot of data.
That is all to say that, for Soler perhaps more than any other prospect, a huge, productive, good-looking Spring Training could tell us quite a bit about his abilities and his future.
(But he’s still just a prospect, who only today turned 21 … he has a long road ahead … many hurdles … most prospects flame out … blah, blah, blah.)