Jorge Soler

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Jorge Carlos Soler Castillo

  • Bats Right, Throws Right
  • Height 6' 4", Weight 215 lb.

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Biographical Information[edit]

OF Jorge Soler signed with the Chicago Cubs on June 11, 2012 after defecting from Cuba. His 9-year contract worth $30 million came a few weeks before a change of rules governing international signings went into effect; this created a bidding war for the most talented international players available to be signed as amateur free agents at the time. In spite of his large contract, Soler began his professional career in the United States in the lower minors.

Soler played for Cuba in the 2010 World Junior Championship, where he first caught the attention of American scouts, even though he did not have a particularly outstanding tournament. He only played for one month for La Habana in the Serie Nacional, Cuba's top professional league, before being suspended for trying to defect. He was only 19 years old and without much of a track record when he did defect, in late 2011, but was considered a five-tool talent comparable to a top-5 pick in the amateur draft. Given the particularly auspicious environment in which he became available for signing by major league teams, he was pursued agressively by a number of teams, including the Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta Braves, New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers before taking the Cubs' offer, which was reportedly worth $5 million more than any of the others on the table. While Soler had tremendous upside, the signing was considered much riskier than that of a number of fellow Cubans who had had a chance to prove their mettle in the Serie Nacional or with the Cuban national team in international competition.

Soler began his professional career with the AZL Cubs in 2012, hitting .241 in 14 games. He then moved to the Peoria Chiefs of the Midwest League, where he did a lot better, hitting .338 in 20 games. Altogether, his season ended with a combined batting line of .299/.369/.463, with 7 doubles, 5 homers, 28 runs scored and 25 RBI in the 34 games. He also went 12 for 13 in stolen base attempts. After the season, Baseball America put him at number 34 on its top 100 prospects list. The Cubs promoted Soler to the Daytona Cubs of the Florida State League to start the 2013 season. On April 10th, he made headlines around the country when he stormed the opposite dugout with a bat in the 7th inning of a game against the Clearwater Threshers; it was in retaliation for being spiked while sliding into second base in an attempt to break up a double play earlier in the inning. Both benches cleared as a result of the original incident, but no punches were thrown; however, when order was restored, Soler grabbed a bat and headed towards the dugout, wielding it, before being restrained by coach Mariano Duncan and teammate Javier Baez. He was promptly ejected and faced a suspension as a result of his tantrum. He had started the year red hot and was hitting .435 at that point, with a pair of homers in 6 games. He received a five-game suspension from the league for his outburst. He ended up playing only 55 games for Daytona, with a batting line of .281/.343/.467, 8 homers and 35 RBI, his season ending on June 17th because of a strained left calf.

Soler had more injury problems in 2014, injuring his leg in his first game with the Tennessee Smokies on April 3rd. He had to make a rehabilitation stint back with the AZL Cubs, but hit .415 with 8 homers and 22 RBIs in 22 games with Tennessee, showing the sort of excellence the Cubs had been looking for since they had signed him. He was promoted to the AAA Iowa Cubs on July 24th, where he hit .278/.376/.593 in 31 games. On August 25th, the Cubs announced that he was being promoted to the majors, the latest in a series of top prospects, including former minor league teammate Baez, to be added to the roster of the last-place club that season. In his debut against the Cincinnati Reds on August 27th, he did Baez one better by homering in his first career at-bat, taking Mat Latos deep in the 2nd inning with a solo blast to center, on the heels of another homer by Luis Valbuena; Baez had waited until extra innings to homer in his debut. Soler added an RBI single later in the game to finish 2-for-4, but the Cubs still lost, 7-5. Before him, Starlin Castro had been the last Cubs player to go deep in his first major league at-bat, in 2010. In his third game on August 29th, he homered twice in a 7-2 win over the St. Louis Cardinals; he joined Baez in having a multi-homer game within his first three major league games. As he had another extra base hit and RBI in his fourth career game, he became the first player to have done so since RBI became an official statistic in 1920. He ended the year with a batting average of .292 in 24 games, with 8 doubles, 5 homers, 11 runs and 20 RBIs, good for an OPS+ of 145.

Soler won the Cubs' starting right field job in 2015. He was hitting .265 after 49 games on June 1st when he was sidelined with an ankle sprain. He was out until July 5th. He suffered another injury on August 23rd, this time a left oblique strain, and went back to the disabled list, coming back on September 18th. As a result of the missed time, he was a bit under the radar as rookies Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Addison Russell got all the publicity as the Cubs surged to a postseason slot. In 101 games, he hit .262 with 10 homers and 47 RBIs. He hit quite well in the postseason, combining to go 9 for 19 (.474) with 3 doubles and 3 homers, 6 runs scored and 5 RBIs as Chicago made it to the NLCS before bowing out to the New York Mets. In 2016, the Cubs signed Jason Heyward to a huge contract to play right field. With Dexter Fowler back in ceter field, Jorge shared left field with a number of other players, although he got more playing time there than anyone else on the team. In 86 games, e hit .238 with 12 homers and 31 RBIs. In the postseason, however, it was Ben Zobrist who started in left field every day, which left Jorge with crumbs of playing time in right field and as a pinch-hitter. He had a total of 13 at-bats over the three rounds of the postseason, getting only 2 hits, both in the World Series against the Cleveland Indians. He was part of Chicago's historic championship-winning team, although obviously he was far from the center of the action. With Kyle Schwarber set to return from an ankle injury that had cost him almost the entire 2016 season, it was not clear whether there was a role for Jorge going forward. This question was answered on December 8th when he was traded to the Kansas City Royals in return for closer Wade Davis.

The Royals were counting on Soler to be a big part of the team in 2017, but they got some bad news in spring training as he strained an oblique muscle during a minor league game on March 26th, forcing him to the disabled list for the start of the season.

Notable Achievements[edit]

Further Reading[edit]

  • Jeffrey Flanagan: "Soler ready for everyday work with Royals: Outfielder sizes up new threads in KC introduction", mlb.com, December 13, 2016. [1]
  • Phil Rogers: "Cubs appear to have a bargain in Soler", mlb.com, February 22, 2015. [2]

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