Results tagged ‘ Jorge Soler ’
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
Highly touted prospect Javier Baez will be in his first Major League Spring Training camp, but the Cubs aren’t reserving a locker for him at Wrigley Field for this season.
“When a young guy’s name pops up as being invited to big league camp, often times people think it means he’s close to the big leagues,” Theo Epstein said Sunday. “In this case, Javy’s not. He’s got significant development still ahead of him. We’re really impressed by everything he’s done but he has a lot of work to do, he knows that. … He finished the year in high-A ball and that’s about where he’s going to start.”
Baez, 20, batted .333 at Class A Peoria with a .979 OPS, 10 doubles, 12 homers and 33 RBIs, and batted .188 in 23 games at Class A Daytona. For now, he’ll stay at shortstop although fans may see him play some second base in Cactus League games just to get him some at-bats.
“He’s a shortstop and he’s going to play shortstop,” Dale Sveum said. “If he happens to get in a game at third or second base, it’ll be because of flat numbers. It’s not that we need to take a look at him anywhere else — that’ll be a development question down the road.”
The invite to the Cubs’ big league camp was made to give Baez some insight into what it’s about.
“It’s nice for the fans to be able to see him, it’s nice for us to be able to see him, but this is not about making the Major League team, this is about experience,” GM Jed Hoyer said.
The same is true for highly touted outfielder Jorge Soler. Epstein said their plan is to have players spend at least one year at Triple-A. Soler played briefly at Class A Peoria last season.
– Carrie Muskat
For those of you interested in uniform numbers for some of the new Cubs, here’s an updated list:
32 – Scott Baker
46 – Scott Feldman
71 – Trey McNutt
56 – Hector Rondon
57 – Carlos Villanueva
41 – Arodys Vizcaino
67 – Robert Whitenack
4 – Dioner Navarro
61 – Christian Villanueva
74 – Logan Watkins
19 – Nate Schierholtz
68 – Jorge Soler
76 – Drew Carpenter
77 – Dayan Diaz
60 – Jensen Lewis
85 – Barret Loux
50 – Blake Parker
63 – Zach Putnam
81 – Nick Struck
47 – Hisanori Takahashi
59 – Cory Wade
79 – J.C. Boscan
78 – Michael Brenly
82 – Rafael Lopez
70 – Javier Baez
6 – Alberto Gonzalez
20 – Brent Lillibridge
65 – Edwin Maysonet
75 – Brad Nelson
66 – Brian Bogusevic
80 – Johermyn Chavez
16 – Darnell McDonald
The Cubs had three players included in MLB.com’s top 100 prospects, revealed Tuesday night on MLB Network. The trio includes Javier Baez (ranked No. 16), and outfielders Albert Almora (No. 39) and Jorge Soler (No. 42). The annual ranking of baseball’s biggest and brightest young talent is assembled by MLB.com’s Draft and prospect expert Jonathan Mayo, who compiles input from industry sources, including scouts and scouting directors. It is based on analysis of players’ skill sets, upsides, closeness to the Majors and potential immediate impact to their teams. The list only includes players with rookie status in 2013.
Baez, 20, batted .333 with 12 home runs, 10 doubles and 33 RBIs in 57 games at Class A Peoria, then hit .188 when promoted to Class A Daytona. Almora, 18, the Cubs’ top pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, played for the Arizona Rookie League team and also Class A Boise last season, and combined to bat .321. Soler, who turns 21 on Feb. 25, played in the Rookie League and then Peoria last season, hitting a combined .299 with five home runs and 25 RBIs in 34 games. The Cuban outfielder signed a nine-year, $30 million contract with the Cubs last June. He made Wrigley Field look small in September when he took batting practice with the Cubs, hitting five home runs, including two that cleared the left field bleachers.
– Carrie Muskat
* Feb. 21 in Mesa, Ariz. It was one of the strangest transactions in Cubs history as pitcher Chris Carpenter said goodbye to his teammates after he found out he was going to the Red Sox as the player to be named as compensation for Theo Epstein. Said Carpenter: “I guess my name will go down in history.”
* Feb. 24 in Mesa, Ariz. On the first day Starlin Castro worked out at Fitch Park, manager Dale Sveum was standing near the shortstop, offering some tips on defense. Sveum didn’t let up all season. Castro did commit 27 errors, but also showed improvement in the field.
* March 18 in Las Vegas prior to game vs. Rangers. Infielder Adrian Cardenas is as passionate about playing baseball as he is about working on his degree at New York University. Cardenas wants to write a novel about his parents and how they came to the U.S. from Cuba. He was most likely the only player in Spring Training who read three Albert Camus books in a two-week period. Said Cardenas: “I’m a better baseball player because of it.”
* April 27 in Des Moines. I talked to Brett Jackson, Josh Vitters and Anthony Rizzo, who were on Triple-A Iowa roster, and could hear their enthusiasm in their voices, see their work ethic, and feel the energy.
* May 18 at Wrigley Field. Rumors were flying pre-game that this would be Kerry Wood’s last game. It couldn’t have been scripted any better. The right-hander threw three pitches, all strikes, for his final strikeout, then walked off the field and was greeted by his son, Justin. Wood didn’t disappear. His Wood Family Foundation was active, and treated students at Nash Elementary School on Chicago’s west side to coats, gloves, hats and gifts as well as a visit from Santa in December. It was a pleasure to cover Wood’s career from start to finish.
* June 26 at Wrigley Field. Anthony Rizzo is promoted from Iowa, and gets two hits in his Cubs debut, including a tie-breaking RBI double, in a victory over the Mets. Four days later, Rizzo hits his first home run for the Cubs, a go-ahead two-run shot, in a 3-2 victory over the Astros. On July 29, Rizzo notched a personal milestone, hitting his first walk-off home run in a 10-inning win over the Cardinals. Said Alfonso Soriano on Rizzo’s impact: “He’s changed everything.”
* July 4 in Atlanta. Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio reveals he has a deal with closer Carlos Marmol. The pitcher is not allowed to shake off his catcher on any pitch, and if he does, Marmol owes Bosio a case of wine. Marmol compiles a 1.52 ERA in the second half.
* July 22 at St. Louis. Dale Sveum asked his starting lineup to click their heels as they took the field in a tribute to Ron Santo, who was inducted posthumously into the Hall of Fame that day in Cooperstown. It was a terrific moment — and repeated at Wrigley Field on July 27 when the Cubs returned home.
* July 23 in St. Louis. It was Super Hero day, and players, coaches and Sveum dressed up as their favorites. Best costume? Jeff Baker and Reed Johnson as Epstein and Jed Hoyer, complete with cell phones to their ears.
* Aug. 5 in Los Angeles. Jackson and Vitters are promoted from Triple-A Iowa. Both struggled at the plate, but Jackson showed his value in the field Sept. 7 with an amazing catch then crash into the center field wall at PNC Park.
* Aug. 18 in Appleton, Wis. I watched Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler go 4-for-5 for Class A Peoria. He hit two singles, a double, and a very impressive home run to straight away center, drove in two runs, and stole a base. Can’t wait until he’s in right field at Wrigley.
* Sept. 8 at PNC Park, Pittsburgh. This was Jeff Samardzija’s last start of the season, and it showed how far he’s come. The right-hander gave up four hits in his first complete game, striking out nine. He could be the Opening Day starter in 2013.
* Oct. 3 at Wrigley Field. Bryan LaHair delivers a walkoff RBI single for a 5-4 win over the Astros in the Cubs’ season finale. It was a roller coaster ride for LaHair, who went from starting first baseman to All-Star to reserve. During batting practice on one road trip, a fan yelled congratulations to LaHair for making the All-Star team. Said LaHair: “No one can take that away from me.”
* Oct. 6 at Mesa, Ariz. I went to Instructional League to watch the young Cubs play, but this time was different. There was more energy, more noise — players and coaches picked their favorite song and it was part of batting practice background music — and lots of work. Watching the enthusiastic kids gives one optimism for the future.
* Sadly, said goodbye to Cubs Minor League pitching coach Tom Pratt and Wrigley Field umpire clubhouse attendant Jimmy Farrell. RIP.
– Carrie Muskat
Arizona Fall League
* The Arizona Fall League opens its 20th season Tuesday with three games, including the Mesa Solar Sox’s contest against the Salt River Rafters in Scottsdale at Talking Stick. The Cubs have seven players on the Solar Sox roster: Javier Baez, Rubi Silva, Kevin Rhoderick, Matt Szczur, Tony Zych, Dae-Eun Rhee, and Nick Struck, who was named the Cubs’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year. The majority of the rosters are composed of players who competed at Double-A levels last season. Baez, who turns 20 on Dec. 1, is the youngest player in the AFL. He spent most of the season at Class A Peoria, where he batted .333 in 57 games, and also played 23 games with Class A Daytona.
AFL games run from Tuesday until Nov. 15, with the championship on Nov. 17. The Solar Sox will play at HoHoKam Park on Wednesday at 12:35 p.m. MST against the Rafters.
* There’s definitely a different sound to the Cubs’ instructional league workouts this year at Fitch Park. Tim Cossins, 42, the Cubs new Minor League field coordinator, asked players and coaches to each submit a song, and the music is played during batting practice at Fitch Park. It does help get the energy level going during workouts in the 90-plus degree heat. Cossins replaces Brandon Hyde, who was promoted to director of player development. A former catcher, Cossins played eight seasons in the Minor Leagues, and managed five seasons in the Marlins’ Minor League system, including three at the Rookie League level and two years, 2005-06, at Class A Jupiter.
On Tuesday, Trevor Gretzky made an impressive catch in left field during one of the drills. Cubs outfield instructor Lee Tinsley says Gretzky is one of the most improved players in camp. It also was a good way for Gretzky to show off in front of his parents, Wayne Gretzky and Janet Jones, who were at Fitch Park.
Instructional league games finish this week, with the last game on Saturday. However, players will compete Thursday in their own “American Idol” type competition.
* Congrats to Jesse Hodges (@TCHodgy), who hit his first professional home run, a two-run shot, in Monday’s instructional league game against the Athletics. The Cubs signed Hodges after seeing him play in the World Junior Tournament in South Korea. A Canadian, he had a full scholarship at Grayson College, a junior college in Texas. His home run was well-timed as he connected in front of Cubs international scout Steve Wilson, who signed the infielder, as well as Hodges’ grandfather, who was at the game, and most of the Cubs brass, including Theo Epstein. I’ll have more on Hodges.
* Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer are in Arizona this week with the Cubs scouting staff for the end of the year meetings, and a chance to see some of the young players such as Albert Almora and Jorge Soler.
– Carrie Muskat
The 2012 season was obviously a disappointment in terms of the final record, but Theo Epstein said he was encouraged by how the Cubs established a better culture and by some of the additions.
Fans will still have to be patient, said Epstein, Cubs president of baseball operations, who met with the media one day after the team wrapped up the season at 61-101.
“Having not been here previously, I think there was a real improvement in the culture around the team and the mood around the clubhouse,” Epstein said Thursday at Wrigley Field. “Despite being a losing club — and we can’t get away from that, we were a losing club — there was a real professionalism, a real spirit of unity, a real effort to play hard every day, to have each other’s back, to prepare.
“We had our lapses,” he said. “We had plenty of bone-head plays on the bases and things that shouldn’t happen, but on a whole, it was more of a winning atmosphere than you typically see around losing clubs. That’s something we can build on, that’s something we’re going to expect, that’s going to be the standard, that we can continue to build on.”
A lot of the credit for that change goes to first-year manager Dale Sveum and his staff. That could make the Cubs more attractive to free agents. Epstein said they will be looking at free agent pitchers to fill some of the holes in the rotation created by the trades of Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm.
“Players want to play for certain managers,” Epstein said. “I guarantee you, starting today and throughout the whole winter, players will be talking about how great it is to play for Dale Sveum and be part of this clubhouse we have here.
“I’ve also heard that players want to be part of the solution here, and want to be part of the club that ultimately wins a World Series here,” he said. “We have an opportunity as well. With a certain tier free agent, we can sell opportunity.
“I think Paul Maholm would tell people he’s really glad he signed here. … I think he feels good about his Cubs experience, and would come back here in a second if he got the opportunity.”
* * *
Epstein would prefer the roster was 100 percent homegrown. But some of the top prospects need more time. Josh Vitters and Brett Jackson, who struggled in two months with the big league team, were both told they will open next season at Triple-A Iowa. Epstein said Vitters has had a tough time initially at every level he’s advanced to. The third baseman batted .121 in 36 games with the Cubs. Jackson’s swing wasn’t ready, Epstein said, but they wanted to promote the outfielder so Sveum and interim hitting coach James Rowson could work with him. Jackson finished at .175 with 59 strikeouts in 120 at-bats.
“I think he’ll have a much more productive offseason because of what he was exposed to than if he had stayed at Triple-A,” Epstein said.
Rowson, who took over in May when Rudy Jaramillo was dismissed, will either remain with the big league team or could return to his duties as Minor League hitting coordinator.
* * *
The 2012 season is significant because it’s the year Anthony Rizzo, Jorge Soler and Albert Almora joined the organization, Epstein said. Rizzo took over the No. 3 spot in the lineup when promoted from Triple-A on June 26. Soler, a 20-year-old Cuban outfielder, signed a nine-year, $30 million deal in June, and Almora was the team’s first-round pick in the First-Year Player Draft. Other highlights for Epstein included Javier Baez, the Cubs’ No. 1 pick in 2011, who made progress in his development; Darwin Barney, who proved to be one of the elite defensive second basemen; and establishing the scouting and player development infrastructure.
The Cubs drew 2.8 million fans this year, the first time they did not reach 3 million since 2003. Fans can expect more growing pains.
“I’m not going to sit here and say, ‘Don’t worry about 101 losses because we have a magic plan to win the World Series in 2013, and it’s going to happen — be there now,’” Epstein said. “I think what we’re trying to communicate is there is a plan, there is a vision. It might be a little bit longer term than we all want it to be but we’re committed to it. There’s great reward at the end. You can’t guarantee results. But I’ll tell everybody, we won’t be satisfied unless we’re in the postseason year in and year out.”
Perhaps the biggest surprise, he said, was veteran Alfonso Soriano, 36, who hit 32 home runs and set a career-high with 108 RBIs.
“Coming in here, I actually had a little trepidation of how we’d handle him and the contract and if his skills declined, how we’d handle playing time,” Epstein said. “I’ll be honest, it wasn’t something I was looking forward to. Those concerns proved to be completely baseless. What a pleasant surprise he turned out to be.”
However, Soriano’s trade value is high. He has two years, $38 million remaining on his eight-year contract, but also has 10-and-5 rights.
“If teams pursue him in a trade, we’ll consider it,” Epstein said. “If we trade him, we’re losing something, so we have to get something back in return to justify that.”
* * *
Despite the losing record and long hours, Epstein did enjoy his first summer in Chicago, saying it was a very livable city for him and his family. After a company softball game Friday, it’s back to work for 2013.
“My hope is that years from now, when we’re celebrating successes year in and year out, we look back at 2012, and say, ‘Look how far we came,’ and I think we will,” Epstein said.
– Carrie Muskat
Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler was assigned to the Cubs instructional league, and not the Arizona Fall League after playing 14 games in the Rookie League and another 20 with Class A Peoria.
“We feel he’s at a point in his development where he needs a lot of instruction,” Theo Epstein said. He hasn’t played a ton of quote-unquote organized baseball. It’s not a question of talent. It’s a good chance to get one on one instruction. There are some small mechanical adjustments we want him to make with his swing with his stride and a little bit of where he starts his hands, loads his hands. Those type of adjustments are better made with the club’s supervision and one-on-one environment.”
Soler batted .338 with Peoria.
* The Cubs are moving their Class A Midwest League team closer to Chicago, agreeing to a new player development contract on Wednesday with Kane County. The Cougars’ ballpark is 45 miles west of Chicago. The Cubs’ Midwest League affiliate had been in Peoria, which was about a three-hour drive.
“I’m a big fan of having as many affiliates as possible close by the home city,” Epstein said. ”It creates a lot of efficiencies with rehabs and allows the front office and staff to see the team play a little bit more often. It also gives our players a feel for the market before there’s too much pressure on them. Obviously, it’s good for the affiliate with the link to the home town team.”
The Cubs also announced on Wednesday they have renewed their PDC with Class A Daytona and Class A Boise. All three contracts run through the 2014 season.
* Anthony Rizzo will hold his first “Walk Off for Cancer” on Dec. 9 at Pine Trails Park, Parkland, Fla. It’s the first major event for the newly created Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation. For more information, go to www.Rizzo44.com.
* Meet Brett Jackson on Thursday from 6-7:30 p.m. CT at the Meijer store, 7111 W. Cermak Road, Berwyn, IL. He’ll only sign photos provided by Meijer, and only for the first 150 people.
– Carrie Muskat
The Cubs’ instructional league begins on Monday, and it’s another chance for some of the team’s top prospects to fine tune their skills. Games begin on Sept. 21. Here’s a list of players who will participate at the Cubs’ facility in Mesa, Ariz.:
Jose Arias, Dallas Beeler, Paul Blackburn, Gerardo Concepcion, Nathan Dorris, Corbin Hoffner, Pierce Johnson, Trey Lang, Dillon Maples, Chad Martin, Carlos Martinez, Ryan McNeil, Juan Paniagua, Stephen Perakslis, Starling Peralta, Anthony Prieto, Austin Reed, Duane Underwood, Ben Wells.
Wilson Contreras, Chadd Krist, Rafael Lopez, Justin Marra, Lance Rymel.
Arismendy Alcantara, Gioskar Amaya, David Bote, Stephen Bruno, Jeimer Candelario, Ben Carhart, Marco Hernandez, Jesse Hodges, Carlos Penalver, Jacob Rogers, Tim Saunders, Dan Vogelbach.
Albert Almora, Yasiel Balaguert, Shawon Dunston Jr., Trevor Gretzky, Trey Martin, Bijan Rademacher, Jorge Soler.
– Carrie Muskat
Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler showed just what he could do in a big league ballpark on Saturday. Soler, 20, who signed a nine-year, $30 million contract with the Cubs this summer, put on quite a show during batting practice, hitting five home runs, including two over the left field bleachers and onto Waveland Avenue. This was the first time Soler has ever been in a Major League ballpark, and he had all of the Cubs baseball brass watching every swing, including president of baseball operations Theo Epstein, general manager Jed Hoyer, and manager Dale Sveum around the cage.
“I felt good,” Soler said through interpreter Luis Eljaua, special assistant to the general manager. “I was a little intimidated — I’ve never been in a big league ballpark before. After awhile, I felt like I fit right in.”
He looked comfortable as he hit line drives off Cubs infield coach Pat Listach. Soler played 20 games in the Rookie League before he was assigned to Class A Peoria, where he batted .338 in 20 games with three home runs and five doubles.
After the season ended, Soler took some time off in Miami, where he lives with his father, but he will report to Mesa on Sunday to begin instructional league. Soler will room with Cubs’ No. 1 Draft pick Albert Almora again. The two met in Canada at a world championship tournament, and were roommates earlier this year in Mesa during Rookie League play. Almora, who was at Wrigley Field on Friday and showed up again Saturday, said he’ll help Soler learn English. How long before Soler is patrolling right field at Wrigley full time?
“I don’t know,” he said. “As long as I learn to make adjustments, the time will come when I’m here.”
– Carrie Muskat