2/15 Soler watch – updated

Jorge Soler reported to Cubs camp on Friday and had his first batting practice session. That may not seem like news, but watching the 6-foot-4 Cuban outfielder swing is an event. After he hit a ball over the fence in left center, Theo Epstein walked over to shake Soler’s hand, and welcome him to camp. He turns 21 on Feb. 25, and still needs time to develop but it’s fun to watch him hit.

“It’s a pretty impressive batting practice for the first day out there,” Dale Sveum said. “The ball comes off his bat like you want a ball to come off the bat if you’re a manager. I’m really, really interested to see him on the field. I’ve gotten to see him take [batting practice] and do things, but I haven’t gotten to see the instincts on the field and all that stuff. I haven’t gotten to see his arm either.”

Soler still needs time to develop. Before last season, he had played in a tournament in 2010, and then some games in the Dominican and that’s it.

“He’s still got to play and learn so much and face better pitching on a consistent basis and older pitchers who can do things,” Sveum said. “That experience factor comes in handy.”

Cubs hitting coach James Rowson went to Miami to work with Soler this offseason.

“He has the hand strength, which none of us can teach,” Sveum said. “It’s nice to watch that kind of [batting practice] but until things happen in a game is when you see why things are breaking down or why you need to make this adjustment. Does he have plate coverage? Is his bat staying in the strike zone long enough to handle a cutter on the outside part of the plate? You can go on and on.

“That’s why I’m really looking forward to games,” he said. “Mechanically, his lower half, I really like. He’s a guy who holds onto the bat with both hands, which I like, and right now, in [batting practice] it looks like it should play. It’s a pretty nice approach.”

The Cubs don’t want to rush him but when does he want to be playing in the big leagues?

“Next year,” Soler said, smiling.

— Carrie Muskat


Is satisfying to hear of the young man`s at bats. Sounds as if he has the potential to become a prodigious hitter at the major league level. Please correct me if I`m mistaken. At which level of the minors is Jorge expected to toil this season, and what is a realistic timetable for him to reach the Show?

He finished up at Low-A in Peoria last year. I see him starting in the Midwest League again this year or maybe down in Daytona (High-A). But if he does well, I could see him finishing 2013 in AA. If that comes true, then he might get a cup of coffee in 2014 and possibly make the opening day roster in 2015.

You have to remember how the front office was big on making sure Rizzo had a full season of Triple A at-bats before promoting him in 2012. I could see them putting Soler through the same progression.

Then again, who says he doesn’t pull a Castro and force their hand?

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