Let’s look at some numbers:
Know what those are? Of course you do. You’re smart. Even as your brain fights it with pleas of, “No, no, that’s not possible,” those are, in order, Jorge Soler’s AA slash line, wOBA, wRC+, walk rate, and strikeout rate this year at AA Tennessee.
I can barely provide you appropriate context for how good those numbers are, save perhaps to say that every single one of them is better than Kris Bryant’s numbers earlier this year at AA. It’s a much smaller sample for Soler, but remember what your brain told you about Bryant’s performance (something like … “No, no, that’s not possible”). Soler is besting it in every way. And those K/BB numbers? Just silly, especially for a slugger like Soler.
Make sure you give his dominance thus far appropriate due.
But we all know the issue with the 22-year-old Soler: those pesky hamstrings. Soler’s manly legs have cost him most of this season, and a separate leg injury (stress fracture from a foul ball) cost him more than half of last season, too.
So familiar are we with the terror that a single muscle can unleash upon us that the moment Soler is removed from a game these days, the entirety of the Cubs prospect-lovin’ world (mostly we see it on Twitter) erupts into a fiery blaze of panic and self-loathing. So it was last night, as Soler had three at bats, played six innings, and then was removed. Thankfully:
Also, Cubs have been cautious w/his schedule. MT @sahadevsharma Soler removed as part of double switch. Def not injured. No trade either.
— Brett Taylor (@BleacherNation) July 22, 2014
Smokies manager Buddy Bailey post-game said Jorge Soler came out early as part of his program. Had to come out at that time to play tomorrow
— Andrew Green (@andruwgreen) July 22, 2014
And then everyone ate ice cream.
The injury stuff notwithstanding, Soler’s performance this year has been out-of-this-world. That’s not easy to pull off when you’ve got half a dozen guys in the same system also having crazy seasons or getting crazy reviews from scouts.
About those numbers and those hamstrings, though, there’s one number that stands out almost as much as the gaudy slash line: 21. That’s how many AA games Soler has been able to appear in this year. Even if you add the 7 rookie league games, Soler has amassed just 102 plate appearances this season.
With so little game experience this year, and only about 75% of it coming at AA, is it realistic to think about having Soler promoted to AAA before the minor league season is over at the end of August? Well, Cubs GM Jed Hoyer was asked about that very thing on The Game yesterday with Dave Kaplan and David Haugh, and he definitely left open the possibility.
“He’s only played, I think, 20 games in AA this year because of the injuries,” Hoyer said of Soler. “We obviously want to build up a little more time under his belt there, but certainly this kind of performance brings promotions into the discussion once he gets some more time there. And he had a really good relationship with Manny when they spent time together in Arizona. That’s something at some point if he keeps playing like this obviously we will be discussing rekindling that relationship again in Iowa.”
Iowa’s season ends September 1, with a possible playoff run thereafter. So the Cubs have a little bit of time to make a decision, but I can’t say it wouldn’t be pretty damn exciting to see the I-Cubs in the playoffs, featuring a lineup with Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, and Jorge Soler.
I’d call it a strong possibility that Soler gets a taste of AAA before the season is up. And then an equally interesting set of questions present themselves: do the Cubs get Soler extra at bats in a Fall or Winter League? Or do the Cubs go outside the box and get Soler those at bats in September in the big leagues, when the rosters expand? It would be an unusual way to “make up” time, given that the big leagues are, well, the big leagues, but Soler is on a major league contract already, and is already on the 40-man roster. There are no meaningful service time considerations in letting Soler get a cup in September, then, and it’s just a matter of his development. I don’t want to get anyone too geeked up about it actually happening – it’s just something I (and Luke) have kept in the “possible” column for a little while.
Either way, I’m as excited to follow Soler’s close to the season as any of the Cubs’ top prospects. The range of possibilities for him seems particularly wide, and whether he sees the bigs this year or not, he’s definitely on the radar for 2015. Just stay healthy, dude.
A fortuitous aside: Mick Gillispie, who announces for the Tennessee Smokies, sat down with Soler for an interview, which turned out to be one of the more fun interviews I’ve watched in a while. Soler’s face lights up like a kid when talking about, for example, how much he enjoys having little fans come up to him – or how Manny Ramirez became his favorite player, and he was nervous to then meet him in Arizona. He even chuckles in spite of himself (in a self-conscious, not arrogant, way) when asked about the learning experience, eh hem, he went through last year at Daytona.