With right-handed power at a premium across baseball, the Cubs are primed to boast at least three hitters capable of 25+ HR for the foreseeable future in Jorge Soler, Javier Baez, and Kris Bryant (though Bryant’s production this season will depend on when he’s called up).
Baseball Prospectus notes that even Addison Russell has 20-25 HR potential, so depending on how the roster takes shape we may be looking at four eventually.
So much has been written about the floors and ceilings of Baez, Bryant, and Russell. But Soler has never been top 10 prospect in all of baseball, thus less painstaking analysis has been devoted to what he actually may become.
Here are his Cespedesian projections for 2015:
ZIPS: 345 PA, 12 HR, .310 OBP, .335 wOBA, 1.0 WAR
Steamer: 541 PA, 22 HR, .322 OBP, .343 wOBA, 2.2 WAR
PECOTA: 583 PA, 24 HR, .316 OBP
Health is obviously key, but the computers think he’s a power-hitting, low-OBP, low-average stick. We know that architects Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have long been pining for respectable OBP in the lineup and have taken measures this offseason to shore it up.
But this is the luxury of having the top system in the game and hoarding hitting assets. A 23-year-old right fielder who slugs at a decent clip and makes runners respect his arm is completely viable when other position players are doing their part in creating runs.
Of course, Epstein and Hoyer (as well as Cubs fans) want Soler to be better than just viable. He has all-star potential and was prioritized by the new regime as one of the original “Core Four” prospects. Nick J. Faleris at BP calls Soler’s upside “a true middle of the order masher” and that “even if the hit tool never fully materializes, he could prove a dangerous five- or six-hole bat capable of punishing mistakes.”
Soler had shown an ability to draw walks at Tennessee and Iowa before he reached the majors last season, posting BB% rates of 15.2 and 13.4, respectively. Remember how he looked in his short stint last year, especially compared to Baez? He took pitches, looked comfortable. It’s not unreasonable to think he could develop into a higher OBP player over time, even if he’s never competing with Rizzo and Bryant for the team lead.
All eyes seem to be on Bryant, the dashing blue-eyed prince who seeks to whisk us away into baseball ecstasy. Except he’s not on the team yet. And the young Cuban slugger with the wide receiver body is already here, likely to be your Opening Day right fielder.