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Wednesday, October 28

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Cubs Thu Sep 20 2012

Cubs Building Blocks: Jorge Soler

Cubs_200.pngThe allure of a baseball prospect comes down to one word: potential. Without a single Major League appearance, even a flailing newcomer still has hope for success long-term because any of the problems down on the farm don't count against your professional stat line.

Anthony Rizzo, Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters all experienced this in one form or another in 2012. Rizzo's failings in San Diego last year were forgotten with a hot start at Iowa, and Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters were still unknown commodities, despite the fairly obvious holes in their game. Nothing really mattered until we saw whether they struggled or succeeded in Chicago (and goodness, have both of them sucked something else).

Jorge Soler is the next player on that list. With the majority of the Cubs' prospects that were in the high minors promoted to the big leagues already, the great hope falls onto the shoulders of the 20-year-old Cuban defector with five-tool potential.

After the rumors of Soler leaving Cuba surfaced, the Cubs immediately jumped to the top of the list in terms of interested teams. Theo Epstein had just arrived, and needed to build the organization from the ground up. After establishing residence in Haiti, Soler was declared a free agent, and was able to sign a reported nine-year, $30 million contract before the new (and highly restrictive) international signing rules began in July.

The 6'3", 225-pound slugger didn't temper any expectations in his first dip into minor league baseball. Between Rookie League and Low-A Peoria, Soler tossed up a triple slash line of .299/.369/.463 in 34 games while learning a new language and getting used to living in a foreign country. His defense, power and modest running ability all have scouts salivating at his potential.

It's important to remember that Soler is quite young, and has never faced the elite type of competition he'll see at every stop he makes on the farm. He'll undoubtedly run into a speed bump or two along the line. It's undecided where he'll start his 2013 season, but if he begins in Low-A where he finished this season, he'll be playing for the Cubs' new affiliate in Kane County, making him incredibly accessible for fans to go see; for better or for worse.

The superstar potential is there for Jorge Soler. And at a $30 million price tag, everyone from Epstein on down is sure hoping that the money is well spent. That's the type of cash you spend on a future cornerstone.

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