After only about a season's worth of at-bats in his entire minor league career, Chicago Cubs outfield prospect Jorge Soler is headed for the major leagues. He'll most likely debut in Cincinnati this week, according to sources familiar with the situation.
Soler, 22, was injured last year and earlier this season, so he hasn't played a full season yet in the minors. But in compiling 15 home runs and 57 RBIs to go along with a .340 batting average in Double-A and Triple-A this season, the Cubs deemed him ready for prime time.
Listed at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, teammates say he's a "freakish" athlete who has the potential to be a five-tool player, although he wasn't a stolen base threat in the minor leagues. But that potential is one reason the Cubs signed the Cuban native to a nine-year, $30 million deal in 2012.
Since recovering from two different hamstring injuries, Soler has been on fire in Double-A and then Triple-A. He batted .415 -- with a .494 on-base percentage -- with six home runs and 22 RBIs in 22 games at Double-A Tennessee before his promotion to Triple-A Iowa, where his slash line is .282 AVG/.378 OBP/.618 SLG with eight home runs and 29 RBIs in 32 games.
Of all the Cubs prospects, Soler is being fast-tracked to the major leagues for two likely reasons: He has already signed a long-term major league contract, and he might have the best plate discipline of them all. The Cubs have always been up front about the fact that strikeouts and walks are a big factor in determining promotions at all levels. Since he signed with the Cubs, Soler has been on the right side of that equation.
In three minor league seasons, he has struck out a total of 105 times against 66 walks. This year he has 41 strikeouts and 29 walks split between Double-A and Triple-A. That's a 1.41 ratio. For comparison, Javier Baez had a 3.82 strikeout-to-walk ratio before being called up. Top prospect Kris Bryant has a 1.83 ratio this year, meaning he's close, as well. Considering Soler's age and experience, he has proved that he has the plate discipline of a more seasoned veteran.
On-base percentage is still a major concern for the Cubs, who rank second to last in the National League (.298) this season. Soler should help in that department as his .432 on-base percentage in the minors this season is off the charts. Bryant has that ability, too. When the Cubs start to reach base more often, their transformation on offense will be complete.
For now, Soler gets the same chance that fellow called-up prospects Baez and Arismendy Alcantara are getting: a head-start on 2015.
And fans get to see another piece to the puzzle debut.