In spring training, Joe Maddon labeled Jorge Soler as Vladimir Guerrero with plate discipline. That made it sound like the Cubs manager saw the young Cuban outfielder someday approaching something close to a Hall of Fame ceiling.
It’s not going to be that easy for any of the powerful young hitters the Cubs are building around now. Maddon can’t communicate that much with Soler in Spanish, but he wants his coaching staff to send a message and reinforce certain ideas.
This is all part of the learning curve for a guy who only played 54 career games above the A-ball level before his big-league promotion last summer: Soler broke an 0-for-15 streak with a first-inning double during Monday night’s 4-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates at Wrigley Field.
“The biggest thing I’ve noticed with him is frustration in other components of his game,” Maddon said. “That’s what I would really like for him to avoid. He has shown in the past to be a really patient hitter that doesn’t normally chase.
“He has been (chasing) more recently. For me, it’s the old scouting adage of: ‘If he’s shown it to you before, he’s going to show it to you again.’ So I know he’s going to go back to being that guy. I just think that with the great start that he has had, he’s probably just pressing a little bit more.”
[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Buy a Jorge Soler jersey]
It can’t be easy hitting on a cold night when it’s 43 degrees at first pitch and you’re wearing a facemask. Soler – who had struck out 10 times in his previous four games – wowed Cubs officials with his methodical approach coming out of Cuba and those skills still leave him with a .762 OPS in April.
“All he needs to do is take his walks,” Maddon said. “Seriously, when you’re walking, you’re hitting, especially with guys that are that good. Meaning that you’re not expanding your strike zone. You’re not chasing that guy’s pitch. You’re making him come to you more.
“He doesn’t need to make any adjustments physically (with) his feet, arms, hands, head, whatever. His adjustment just has to come from the fact that I’m going to accept my walks. And once he comes to terms with that, he’ll take off again.”