BLUF: Potential stud right fielder with good defense and offense to spare, but he comes with considerable risk.
The Player: Jorge Soler (OF, Technically Without a Team) – Young Cuban defector that is rumored (Chicago Tribune) to have the framework of a deal in place to sign with the Cubs once he is officially declared a free agent by Major League Baseball. The 19-year old Soler defected last year and has been receiving plenty of buzz since that time.
Body: Very physical (6-3, 200) with explosive strength and athleticism. Muscular but maintains flexibility and shows fast-twitch ability. Plus athlete.
Makeup: Largely an unknown. Scouts I spoke with that scouted him in international tournaments indicated he displayed strong competitiveness and a good work ethic, pointing to positive makeup.
Hit: Soler has yet to face truly premium competition and as a result his hit tool remains largely untested. He has plenty of bat speed and shows some feel for the barrel and contact. Rarely struck out in international competitions and most scouts I spoke with believe he can be an average hitter or maybe a tick better if everything clicks. Grade – 30/50
Power: Arguably the highlight of his game. True plus-plus raw power to the pull side, along with the strength to drive the ball out the opposite way. Typically trusts his swing and allows his physicality to do the work for him, rather than muscling up to drive the ball out. Doesn’t have a ton of loft in his swing but shear bat speed allows him to get the ball out on a line. Could be a special power prospect as he develops and adds loft and leverage to his swing. Grade (raw power) – 50/70
Arm: Classic right field arm. Gets rid of it quickly with plenty of velocity and good carry on all throws. Good, consistent mechanics allow him to be accurate with most throws. Grade – 60/60
Fielding: Shows solid instincts in game situations. Gets a good read on the ball off the bat and make the appropriate jump. Routes aren’t always pretty but his speed can allow him to make up for it. High effort defender that doesn’t back down from anything. Believes he can make plays in the outfield. Potential weapon in right field. Grade – 50/60
Speed: Scouts turned in 4.22-4.36 seconds from home to first. Gets out of the box well from the right side and is generally an above-average runner. Doesn’t read pitchers that well and is unlikely to be a base stealing threat as he reaches his prime. Doesn’t project to lose much, if any of his speed as he reaches physical maturity. Grade – 50/50
Summation: Truly classic right field profile. Offers plus-plus raw power that has a chance to translate if the hit tool comes together. Good athlete with an impressive body. Runs well in the outfield and should be a plus defender with a plus arm. Many of the nuances of the game are in various stages of development and he will require refinement for all his tools to play at once in the US. Raw ceiling could be a .275-.280 hitter with 30 home runs in the heart of the lineup, all with very good outfield defense.
Relative Risk: High. High doesn’t begin to describe Soler’s risk level. Handing a teenager more than $25 million and trying to develop him in a new country and a new baseball environment is extremely risky, but the payoff could be huge.
Future: Where Soler plays in 2012 depends very much on when he receives full clearance from OFAC and MLB to sign with a club, presumably the Cubs. It seems very likely that he would spend at least some amount of time in extended spring training with the hope being that he heads to Low-A Peoria in the summer. He doesn’t project to fly through the system and could take at least three years to be on the big league radar.