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Cubs Tue Aug 26 2014
Jorge Soler was going to need September at-bats anywhere he could get them because of hamstring injuries that sidelined him earlier in the summer. And with Iowa all but eliminated from the playoffs after a rough stretch of baseball the last two weeks, there was only once place to go: Chicago. Soler was already on the 40-man roster -- requiring no extra hoops to jump through or roster implications delaying his promotion to the majors (as we're seeing with Kris Bryant to some degree).
He's a physical specimen, listed at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, but the one thing that has put him on the fast track is his plate discipline. Sure, he's hit for a high average with great power, but the front office is interested in complete hitters. Soler qualifies, drawing 33 walks against just 48 strikeouts in his 62-game season thus far in 2014. In his two-and-a-half seasons in the minor leagues, he's finally reached the 600 at-bat total, which is comparable to a full, healthy season at the major league level. His triple slash line: .307/.383/.551 with 28 homers and strikeout-to-walk ratio well below 2.0.
Though he's been slowed by injuries, Soler's profile is exactly what the Cubs were hoping for when they signed him for $30 million in 2012. He won't turn 23 until next spring, and combines his advanced hitting approach with solid play in right field and a cannon for an arm. He'll get a day off every ten games or so, but otherwise will play outfield for the Cubs from this point forward. The combination of Justin Ruggiano and Ryan Sweeney are the two current team members that will see a major dip in regular playing time.
Despite the profile, Soler has never cracked the Top 30 in prospect rankings because of his propensity of injuries and some reports about lacking in the hustle department. The injury issue is a real one, as he's had multiple long-term DL stints due to hamstring issues, but the Cubs took their time with him the last time it happened, and worked to not only strengthen those muscles, but other parts of his lower body to take some of the strain off the affected areas.
As for his lack of hustle, much of that got overblown late last season and in the Arizona Fall League because he wasn't running out all of his hits, and didn't run all out for balls while playing in the outfield. Everyone assumed it was a continuation of a problem the team benched Soler for early in 2013. However, the Cubs explicitly told Soler to do that to preserve his fleeting health, and wanted him to just get as many at-bats in before starting him on a specific offseason program to combat the hamstring issue. He's had no problems with his legs or his hustle since returning to the diamond this season.
Soler is the third major hitting prospect the Cubs have called up in the last 45 days, and will likely be the last significant move before the offseason. Bryant will be making the leap sometime early next season, and Addison Russell isn't too far behind. The light at the end of the tunnel is quickly approaching for the patient fans. The future of contending on a yearly basis is just around the corner.