Although he didn’t get into the specifics, Chicago Cubs GM Jed Hoyer told the media (including ESPN) that minor league playoff races will have an impact on the timing of late-season call-ups this year. Normally, you wouldn’t operate like that, but, given that the big league team is not in a playoff race, the Cubs have the luxury of making thoughtful choices on the timing this year.
Obviously the guy you think about there is Jorge Soler, who is already on the 40-man roster, and is expected to come up in September, at the latest, when big league rosters expand from the 25-man to the full 40-man (that is to say, anyone on the 40-man can come up and play – teams don’t actually use the full 40 players).
While the playoffs undoubtedly factor into things, I can’t help but think the timing of Soler’s call-up – assuming it comes this year – will have more to do with managing his hamstrings and health routine than with the Iowa playoff chase. Yes, it would be great for Soler to get that experience and it would be great for the I-Cubs to have one of their best hitters, but getting Soler some big league at bats this year – perhaps as many as possible – could be very important for 2015. He is a special player, and that probably brings some special considerations. The question, then, is whether bringing him up too soon could pose any kind of risk to his health, given that it appears he’s settled into a nice routine at Iowa, and is still probably forming good health habits.
All in all, I still believe it’s 50/50 that we see Soler before September.
Interestingly, Hoyer said the Cubs are still having discussions about, and deciding on, whether to send Soler to the Arizona Fall League after the season (CSN).
The prospect-laden league can be a good way for top prospects to get extra game experience when they’ve missed time in the regular season (as C.J. Edwards might do this year, and as Soler, himself, did last year). I had fully expected Soler to play somewhere this offseason – either the AFL or a Caribbean league – but that was before it was a virtual lock that he’d get at least a month of games in the big leagues. Let’s say Soler gets 12 more starts the rest of the minor league season, and then 20 starts in September with the Cubs. He’ll then have played 83 games on the year, and gotten maybe 300 to 320 plate appearances. It’s not a full season, but that’s a lot more than it was looking like he would get back in June. How necessary is another 100 plate appearances in the AFL?
That’s not intended to be rhetorical, by the way. I really don’t know. It sounds like the Cubs are still thinking it through, too.