Of the Chicago Cubs’ top prospects, only Kris Bryant is having a year that you could say is at or above what you would have hoped coming into the season. Albert Almora seems to be heating up after an early slow start, and Javier Baez might also be turning a corner. Arismendy Alcantara has had a mixed year, showing good power, but not taking the walks that really set him apart last year. Dan Vogelbach is hitting well of late, but hasn’t shown the kind of power he’s going to need to show to stay on the upper tier of the prospect radar. Pierce Johnson dealt with a hamstring injury early on, and is only just getting his season really going. Jeimer Candelario has struggled with the tough test of High-A.
And then you have Jorge Soler and C.J. Edwards.
Each has performed quite well at AA this year, which is nice … but each has had almost no actual playing time at AA in which to show that the small sample performances would extend out over more than a handful of games. That’s because each has been dealing with injury issues. For Soler, it’s an apparently ongoing hamstring issue, first suffered in Spring Training, and then twice popping up again. For Edwards, it’s a non-structural shoulder issue that’s had him out of commission since the last week of April.
That Edwards injury, described as inflammation, was to keep him sidelined for a couple weeks before he could start throwing. A couple weeks has turned into a few weeks, and Edwards still isn’t throwing yet. His manager at AA, Buddy Bailey, spoke with Smokies on the Radio, and said that Edwards is just about ready to start his throwing program in Arizona. Ostensibly, that would put Edwards just a week behind the original estimates, but Bailey added that he doesn’t expect to see Edwards back with the Smokies for “at least” a month, and possibly not until early July. It might seem surprising to hear that Edwards would take more than a month to get back into AA game action, but you’ve got to keep a few things in mind: Edwards is young (22), there’s no need to rush him (it’s not like the big league team is absolutely counting on him for 2014), it’s the shoulder (kid gloves, man), and Edwards has a slight frame (so you want to be even more careful). If you let a young guy with shoulder inflammation throw too hard too soon, you don’t have to be a medical professional to know that it could cause other, more serious injuries.
That is all to say, the timeline here doesn’t worry me, at least not any more than I was worried before (which is pretty much just the minimum amount of worry when it comes to any top pitching prospect’s arm). As long as he does start throwing in Arizona, and as long as there are no setbacks, it won’t bother me if Edwards doesn’t return until early July. Yes, it’ll suck that his season will have been abbreviated dramatically, but his long-term health is paramount here. Bailey, himself, said that the throwing program is going to be very “strict” and “conservative”, which probably accounts for the long return time. Better to play this thing safe and smart.
As for Soler, Bailey indicated that he headed to Chicago this weekend to undergo further tests on that troublesome hamstring. Bailey described how the injury happened, and suggested that he’s expecting Soler back with the team this week. Soler still hasn’t been placed on the disabled list (again, it’s just seven days in the minors), so that does comport with a hope that he could be back sooner than this weekend.
Still, given the previous hamstring injuries, it’s hard to see Soler not being given more time off than that. Hopefully the tests in Chicago reveal something correctable/treatable/avoidable/whatever, and there will be a preventative way to keep Soler on the field going forward. I’m pretty projection agnostic on Soler right now, because of the repeat nature of the injury. Until we learn something concrete, it’d be a fool’s errand to guess when he’ll be back. Just cross your fingers.