MIAMI – Cubs manager Joe Maddon has called Jorge Soler “a monster player in the making,” predicting the young outfielder will develop into a middle-of-the-order force.
Even if Soler hasn’t quite lived up to the Vladimir-Guerrero-with-plate-discipline hype yet, he still added another dimension to this lineup. Soler is a powerful 6-foot-4 athlete who sparked a bidding war after leaving Cuba, immediately getting a big-name reputation with that nine-year, $30 million major-league contract.
Soler going on the disabled list with a sprained left ankle will test a lineup built around Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo. Realistically, the Cubs are looking at Soler being sidelined for at least three weeks, with Junior Lake getting an opportunity to prove he belongs in right field.
“I definitely believe there is the presence feature,” Maddon said Wednesday at Marlins Park. “I thought about that sending the lineup over there today. The names that we presented – minus (Soler) – how do they feel about it?
“Now, of course, if you get a guy or two who elevates his game, or all of a sudden starts really hitting well, then it becomes moot.
“Otherwise, the names do matter. Whenever you get a lineup card over from the other side, I look at who’s hitting behind who, and it matters.”
While Mike Baxter took Soler’s roster spot, the Cubs could also be setting the stage for a bigger shakeup with Javier Baez now starting to play third base at Triple-A Iowa.
Soler hasn’t quite delivered the combination of patience and power the Cubs expected, ranking fifth in the majors with 67 strikeouts while hitting only four home runs. But he still led all National League rookies with 50 hits, putting up a .724 OPS overall and showing improvements in May (.288 average).
“Am I concerned? No. Am I curious? Yes,” Maddon said. “Different guys are going to get an opportunity now. And as you move this thing forward, getting young guys opportunities is always interesting (because) you see what you got.”