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jorge soler cubsAfter another long rehab, Jorge Soler is back in action with the rookie level Arizona Cubs. He DH’d in the season opener on Saturday and played right field on Sunday.

Right now there are two key questions on Soler: can he stay healthy, and how badly has his string of leg issues set him back. The answers are, I suspect, are probably and probably not too much.

On the injury front, it is important to remember that so far as we know there are no concerns over structural damage in his legs. He has had hamstring issues in both legs, but there are no current signs that these are due to problems with the tendons, bone spurs, damaged knees, or anything else that could open the door to a more serious issue. In fact, last we heard the Cubs were working on nutrition and hydration with Soler, two very treatable areas that should pose no threat to his long term health. In short, even though he hasn’t been able to stay on a diamond so far, I do not see any reason to drop the dreaded “injury-prone” label on him and write him off as a bust. I’m disappointed that he keeps having leg issues, but despite those I still remain very high on this guy. In fact, I still think that of the Cubs Big Four he has a floor rivaled only by Bryant and a ceiling comparable to any of them.

When he has been on the diamond, Soler has consistently shown a patient, disciplined bat with plenty of power and better than average defense in right. Assuming he can rejoin Tennessee around the first of July and stay with the Smokies the rest of the summer, and assuming he continues to display the lowish strikeout rates, highish walk rates, and good slugging percentage we have seen from him so far, I see absolutely no reason to not bring him to the majors in September. That’s not a prediction, mind you. It’s just a statement of how Soler’s developmental path could continue, and how using the big leagues this year could make sense.

Soler, unlike Baez or Bryant, is already on the 40-man roster. Unlike Baez or Bryant, the Cubs won’t need to free up a roster slot to bring up Soler this Fall. What the Cubs will need to do is find him at bats. More than any other player in the Cubs farm system, this guy needs to be in a lineup on a regular basis against live pitching making up for lost time. When the minor league seasons wind down around the first of September, the only place Soler can go to get those at bats will be Chicago, at least until the Arizona Fall League fires up in October.

That does not mean I think Soler will open 2015 in Chicago. Sending him up in September, in my book, would be all about getting him necessary at bats to try to make up for some of his lost time (and a little cup of coffee against major league pitching won’t hurt either). Barring any big surprises with the Cubs, I think he’ll open 2015 with Iowa and come back to Chicago to stay in mid-summer, should all go well.

But first he has to get well, and stay well, and continue to stay well for a long time. If the Cubs can finally help him over that final hurdle, though, he could still be on a similar schedule to fellow sluggers Baez and Bryant.

Scores From The Weekend

Iowa -
Friday – The offense was everywhere as the Cubs won 8-3.
Saturday – The offense was lacking, and the Cubs lost 4-0.
Sunday – The Cubs had just enough offense, and needed all of it, to finish off this 7-6 win.

Tennessee -
Friday – The Smokies walked off in the bottom of the eleventh for a 5-4 win.
Saturday – On Saturday they manged to score just once despite walking seven times in a 4-1 loss.
Sunday – A pair of two run innings provided the margin in this 4-0 win.

Daytona -
Friday – Not a lot went right for the Cubs in this 9-3 loss.
Saturday – They bounced back nicely, though, with an 11-4 win over Tampa.
Sunday – And they finished off the weekend with a 4-2 win.

Kane County -
Friday – The Cougars rallied in the 8th for a 6-4 win.
Saturday – This game was blocked by rain.
Sunday – In the resulting doubleheader, though Kane County dropped Game One 5-0 before earning the split in their final at bat for a Game Two 3-2 win.

Boise Hawks -
Friday – Three errors did not help as Boise lost 9-5.
Saturday – The Hawks road woes continued with this 3-2 loss.
Sunday – Sunday saw a similar result. The final in the loss was 6-2.

Arizona Cubs -
Saturday – Arizona opened their season with this 10-9 loss.
Sunday – A four run rally in the eleventh made the difference as the Cubs won 15-11.

Performances of Note

  • [Iowa] Kyle Hendricks pitched an excellent game on Friday. Over 7.2 innings he gave up just 1 run on 3 hits while striking out 6 to lower his season ERA to 3.55.
  • [Iowa] Armando Rivero faced 4 batters this weekend and struck out 3 of them.
  • [Iowa] After scuffling through the games on Friday and Saturday (and wracking up 6 strikeouts to show for it), Kris Bryant broke out on Sunday for a 2 for 4, 2 home run performance.
  • [Iowa] Javier Baez doubled as part of a 3 hit Friday and finished the weekend with 4 hits.
  • [Iowa] Arismendy Alcantara doubled twice, tripled, walked twice, stole two bases, and finished the weekend with 4 hits.
  • [Tennessee] Sunday’s shutout was brought to you by Eduardo Figueroa (5 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 3 K), P.J. Francescon (2 IP, 1 H), and Frank Batista (2 IP, 3 H, 3 K).
  • [Tennessee] Christian Villanueva settled back into Double A pretty quickly. Through 4 games he is already up to 3 walks and 5 hits, including a homer and a double. He has only struck out twice.
  • [Tennessee] Rubi Silva tripled and homered (his 6th) on Friday and finished the weekend with 4 hits. More notably, he did not strikeout once over the three games.
  • [Tennessee] Dustin Geiger had just one hit this weekend, but it happened to be his 10th home run. He also walked twice and struck out twice.
  • [Daytona] Rob Zastryzny was once again effective on Sunday, pitching 5 scoreless innings in which he allowed 4 hits, 3 walk and struck out 4.
  • [Daytona] Gioskar Amaya singled twice and stole his 5th base on Friday, and then walked twice on Sunday.
  • [Daytona] Wes Darvill raised his batting average fifty three points with a 4 for 6 effort on Saturday that included a double.
  • [Daytona] With extra base hits on Friday and Sunday, Dan Vogelbach has now doubled in 4 of his last 5 games. His June OPS is up to .895.
  • [Kane County] Jen-Ho Tseng pitched another good game on Sunday. Through 6 innings on the mound he allowed a run on 3 hits while striking out 5.
  • [Kane County] Pierce Johnson made a rehab appearance for the Cougars as he works his way back from a calf injury. He gave up one earned on three hits and two walks over four innings. He struck out two.
  • [Kane County] Kyle Schwarber has a 4 game hitting streak through 4 games in Low A, including a homer and a double on Friday. He also has one walk and one strikeout.
  • [Kane County] Jacob Hannemann homered (his 4th) singled, and walked 3 times over the 3 games to keep his good month going. For the month of June Hannemann is hitting .284/.347/.463 with 2 homers and 4 steals.
  • [Kane County] With his appearance at second base on Friday, Ben Carhart has now played every infield position except pitcher this season, including 20 games behind the plate.
  • [Boise] Trevor Clifton pitched 4 innings in his Saturday start, allowing a run on 3 hits and a walk while striking out 6. Trey Lang added 2 scoreless frames with a pair of strikeouts.
  • [Boise] Rashad Crawford tripled twice this weekend, and that means half his hits this season have gone for extra bases. He also has 3 steals in 6 tries.
  • [Boise] First baseman Daniel Canela has reached base in all 9 of his games with the Hawks this season, including a single and 2 more walks over the weekend. His Short Season A OPS is now .779.
  • [Arizona] Of the Cubs pitchers, Carlos Llano had the best day on the mound on Saturday. He allowed a run on 3 hits over 2 innings while striking out 4 and walking one.
  • [Arizona] Gleyber Torres opened his Cubs career by striking out once in an 0 for 5 performance on Saturday. Eloy Jimenez struck out once in his pinch hit at bat.
  • [Arizona] Bryant Flete (2B), Jorge Soler (DH), and Alberto Mineo (C) all had 3 hits on Saturday. Soler, because that’s what he does, doubled twice. Last night, Soler played five innings in the field before being lifted for a pinch hitter. Presumably that was just part of the rehab plan.
  • [Arizona] Torres had a lot more success on Sunday. He finished that game 3 for 6 with a triple, a home run, a walk, and a pair of steals.
  • [Arizona] Charcer Burks (CF) had a big game on Sunday and finished the weekend with 6 hits, including both a double and a triple.
  • [Arizona] Shamil Ubiera (DH) doubled and homered for his 2 hits on Sunday.
  • [Arizona] Hector Perez allowed 5 runs (4 earned) on 5 hits and 3 walks in 4.1 innings of relief on Sunday, but he also struck out 9.

Other News

  • Arismendy Alcantara has been hitting well much of this season, but he was doing so with an OBP that quite a bit lower than the very good .352 he posted in Double A last year. While his mix of switch hitting moderate power and speed could play well at the bottom of the order with a weaker OBP, the dream coming into this year was that he could continue to get on base at an elevated rate and emerge as a solid contender for the major league lead off slot in the near future. That dream might be coming true. His season OBP is up to .328 thanks to a robust .352 in June and a remarkable .450 in his last ten games.
  • Andrew McKirahan is emerging as an impressive lefty reliever option for Daytona. Through 20 games and 30.2 innings this year he has struck out 30 and walked just 7. His ERA now sits at 1.17 and his GO/AO at 1.74. Even for the Florida State League those are good numbers.
  • If you want to see Kyle Schwarber’s low, wide stance as he rips a single to right, BN’er Laura was at the Kane County double header yesterday and shot this video:

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