Cubs

Cubs see Gold Glove/Andre Dawson potential in Jorge Soler

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Cubs see Gold Glove/Andre Dawson potential in Jorge Soler

Dave Martinez has flashbacks watching Jorge Soler.

While Jon Lester’s yips became a viral video and a national story, the Cubs bench coach watched Soler stay with the play and channel another Wrigley Field fan favorite: Andre Dawson.

“I saw ‘Hawk,’” Martinez said Wednesday. “I saw ‘Baby Hawk’ out there. I played next to ‘Hawk’ and (saw) some of the throws he made from out there. And as soon as (Soler) threw the ball, that’s the first thing I thought about.”

[MORE: Joe Maddon wants Cubs to take the fight to NL Central]

Soler bailed out Lester on Monday night with two home runs and what manager Joe Maddon called that “ridiculous” throw during a 7-6 comeback victory that took 10 innings. After Lester’s throw to first base sailed wide of Anthony Rizzo and bounced off the rolled-up tarp and into the visiting bullpen, Soler picked up the ball and gunned down Zack Cozart at third base.    

Dawson’s Hall of Fame plaque features his classic nickname — “THE HAWK” — as well as the eight Gold Gloves and 1987 National League MVP Award, labeling him as “a complete player.”

Martinez primarily played center while Dawson patrolled right during that MVP year on the North Side. Maddon’s longtime bench coach with the Tampa Bay Rays now works with the Cubs outfielders and sees the same kind of all-around potential in Soler.

“He’s a beast, but he does a lot more than just hit the ball hard,” Martinez. “My biggest thing in spring training, I kept telling him: ‘Hey, you can win a Gold Glove in the outfield. You’re that good.’ I said: ‘You run the bases well, but you got to try to do it all the time, not just when you feel like it.’ And he’s been unbelievable. (He’s) worked his butt off.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

Soler turned 23 in spring training and possesses all the physical tools, carrying about 240 pounds on his 6-foot-4-inch frame. He’s shown an ability to quickly make adjustments after playing only 151 games in the minors. He’s a polished, patient hitter who put up 26 RBI across his first 30 games in The Show, the most for any Cub since Bob Speake did the same thing in 1955.

That advanced feel is even more impressive when you consider the Cuban outfielder missed roughly two years of game action while trying to defect and establish residency before signing a $30 million major-league contract in the summer of 2012.

If Soler stays healthy, it looks like that signing could go down as one of the pivotal moments for the Theo Epstein administration.

“People don’t realize how young he is,” Martinez said. “He’s a young baseball player that’s learning how to play the game the right way.”

David Bote puts his sweet swing to use, assists two Cubs fans in gender reveal

David Bote puts his sweet swing to use, assists two Cubs fans in gender reveal

David Bote put his sweet, sweet swing to special use on Tuesday.

Prior to the Cubs’ Cactus League game vs. the Rockies, a couple of Cubs fans asked Bote to partake in their gender reveal. The duo brought a powder-infused baseball, asking Bote to take a hack to reveal whether they’re having a boy or girl.

The father-to-be tossed the ball to Bote, who smashed it open to unleash a pink cloud of powder — signifying the couple will have a girl. The 26-year-old infielder — who has two daughters himself — threw his arms in the air to celebrate.

No matter how you feel about gender reveals, you’ve gotta love the uniqueness of this one and Bote partaking in the special moment. Here’s to a healthy life for the baby! 

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Cubs' Albert Almora Jr. is off to a hot start in spring training

Cubs' Albert Almora Jr. is off to a hot start in spring training

The Cubs have only played three spring training games, and it’s dangerous to use spring results to predict regular season successes and failures. Still, it’s okay to acknowledge Albert Almora Jr.’s hot start in camp.

In two games, Almora is 4-for-4 with a walk, double, home run, four RBIs and four runs scored. That line is essentially equivalent to a single game in the regular season and could be turned upside down by the end of the week. But it’s a start for the 25-year-old who has struggled immensely at the plate for the last season and a half.

In his last 177 games (dating back to the second half of 2018), Almora holds a .235/.270/.347 slash line. The advanced stats paint an uglier picture: 58 wRC+, .261 wOBA and 52.2 percent groundball rate.

Last season was the most challenging of Almora’s young career. He hit .236/.271/.381 in 130 games with a 64 wRC+, .271 wOBA, -0.7 fWAR (all career worsts). On top of that, he was involved in a heartbreaking moment early in the season; an Almora foul ball struck a young girl at Minute Maid Park during a Cubs-Astros game in May.

Almora refused to blame his 2019 offensive woes on that incident, though it obviously played a part. He did admit that he was in a bad place mentally and used this winter to decompress. Almora also used it to make some adjustments to his swing and the changes are clear as day:

Pre-2020:

2020:

As MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian notes, Almora is now more upright in the box and his stance is more closed. His leg kick is less defined and he’s rotating his front leg far less than previous seasons. In short, he’s more direct to his swing and has more time to react in the box because he cut out a lot of his pre-swing movements.

RELATED: David Ross is wasting no time with Cubs' rotation competition

Almora said Monday he’s far from where he wants to be, pointing out the MLB season is a 200-day marathon. It’s too early to tell whether his simplified approach leads to sustainable success.

Small sample size be damned, Almora’s made noticeable adjustments. That’s the first step in his mission to get back on track offensively.

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