Just as soon as Jorge Soler’s name started popping up in trade rumors this offseason, we saw the Soler Love-Fest make a resurgence around the web. It hadn’t gone too far – his postseason run certainly helped – but it was a noticeable thing, because, by the end of the regular season, Soler had lost some of that pre-2015 buzz.
Certainly, that wasn’t entirely within his control. Soler faced several injuries in 2015 that not only threw him off your radar, but also slowed his development and ability to catch a stride. There was also the fact that multiple young Cubs came up from the minors, making a surprisingly positive impact (some to the extreme).
Still, when the trade rumors came around, Cubs fans did what they’ve become known for (perhaps, rightly so): hoarding every single bit of in-house, dreamable talent for themselves.
First, Anthony Castrovince (Sports on Earth) views Soler as one of the Sixteen People to Watch in Baseball in 2016. In the ranks of Carlos Correa, Mike Trout, Shelby Miller, Matt Harvey, Bryon Buxton and many other huge names, Jorge Soler finds himself in extremely good company.
Castrovince mentions specifically that Jorge Soler is the true “X-Factor” for the 2016 Chicago Cubs – a team that figures to be good regardless of Soler’s contributions. If Soler can actually take his game to the level most believe he can, the Cubs will have a true “embarrassment of riches” of position players. Defense, though, is still a huge question, according to Castrovince, and Soler will have to make a marked improvement over his 2015 defense to really move the needle.
Second, Christina Kahrl (ESPN) revealed Jorge Soler as the second of her 10 Picks to Click: Breakout Hitters for 2016, on yet another list with familiar names and faces. Thanks in part to his solid projections (2016 Bill James: .837 OPS, 2016 Steamer .764), Soler is once again drawing a lot of attention before the upcoming season. As is tradition in articles of this nature, Kahrl ends with a bold prediction: 60 extra base hits and .500 SLG%. The thing is, this particular bold prediction feels entirely within his capability.
Indeed, Jorge Soler’s entire MLB career (2014-2015), which plays like just a shade less than a full season of baseball, has been strong. With 501 PAs under his belt at ages 23 and younger, he has slashed .268/.325/.433, with a .327 wOBA.
In other words, Soler’s performance so far has actually been quite solid, even in a vacuum. But when you consider all of the additional hurdles – time spent away from baseball defecting, moving quickly between levels before MLB, an injury-filled first season, his 23 years of age, his approach at the plate, his relative inexperience – you start understand why everyone expects such big things. And then you start to believe it.