Prospect Jorge Soler catches manager Dale Sveum’s attention on first day in camp
BY GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org February 15, 2013 7:49PM
In this Monday, Aug. 13, 2012, photo, Chicago Cubs prospect Jorge Soler signs autographs before a Class A baseball game between the Beloit Snappers and the Peoria Chiefs in Beloit, Wis. (AP Photo/Daily Herald, Steve Lundy) MANDATORY CREDIT MAGS OUT TV OUT
Updated: March 17, 2013 6:45PM
MESA, Ariz. — Jorge Soler is huge — 6-3, massive-expectations, nearly-hit-a-truck-with-a-home-run huge.
That last part happened during batting practice Friday. It was his first day in a major-league spring-training camp, on a day he said, ‘‘I feel a little bit tired,’’ after flying from Miami to Arizona that morning.
The Cubs’ marquee international free agent from a year ago impressed manager Dale Sveum enough for him to say: ‘‘He kind of reminds me of a right-handed Cliff Floyd, the way he takes BP.’’
If he stays healthier in his career than Floyd did, Soler might live up to the expectations Cubs fans — many of whom lined up for his autograph at Fitch Park — have for him.
‘‘He has the hand strength, which none of us can teach,’’ Sveum said. ‘‘The ball comes off his bat like you want a ball to come off the bat if you’re a manager.’’
But don’t expect to see Soler in the big leagues any time soon, even with the nine-year, $30 million deal he signed in July.
‘‘I don’t see that,’’ Sveum said. ‘‘We all know about the tools, but the fast track . . . there’s no reason to do that. He’s still got to play and learn so much and face better pitching on a consistent basis, face older pitchers. . . . That experience factor comes in handy.’’
Soler, a Cuban defector who hadn’t played on a team in nearly two years by the time the Cubs signed him (he was waiting for residency status and free-agent eligibility), apparently didn’t get the memo. When asked how soon he expected to be in the majors, Soler — with coach Franklin Font translating — said: ‘‘Next year.’’
Soler likely will open the season
no higher than Class A Daytona, with an opportunity to move up to Class AA Tennessee by the
end of the season. He will turn 21 this month.
As for the spring, he’s looking to continue the work he did with Cubs hitting coach James Rowson during the winter and make an impression in what he hopes is an extended look in camp with a team he plans to stay with ‘‘for the rest of my life.’’
Sveum said he’ll play Soler in right field and left field this spring, though his powerful arm suggests right field in the long run.
With an unusually high number of split-squad games this spring, Soler has a shot to stick in camp longer than a typical first-camp prospect.
‘‘I’m really just interested in seeing him on the field,’’ Sveum said. ‘‘I got to see him take BP and do some things, but I haven’t gotten to see the instincts on the field and all that stuff. . . . I’m really looking forward to games.’’