Even as the strikeouts keep piling up, Cubs manager Joe Maddon still sees Jorge Soler as “a monster player in the making.”
That’s what the Cubs had in mind when they gave the Cuban outfielder a nine-year, $30 million major-league contract in the summer of 2012. Maddon has compared Soler’s tools to someone who would have been a No. 1 overall draft pick if he had grown up in the United States (though 6-foot-4, 240-pound athletic freaks don’t really play baseball in this country anymore).
What’s supposed to separate Soler is an advanced feel for hitting, the polished approach that allowed him to put up a .903 OPS during his 24-game audition with the Cubs last season.
Soler went into Thursday’s 6-5 win over the New York Mets leading the National League in strikeouts. He’s up to 50 strikeouts after a 1-for-4 afternoon at Wrigley Field that included his 16th run scored.
“You got to organize your strike zone,” Maddon said. “The comparisons in spring training – I was talking about him being Vladimir (Guerrero) with more patience at the plate. And there’s an old scouting axiom: If a guy had done that before, he’s going to do it again.
“So I believe he’s going to do it again. Right now, he’s just off a little bit and we have to keep preaching that patience.”
Soler has only homered once since that two-homer game on April 13 against the Cincinnati Reds. He’s already had 17 multiple-strikeout games this season.
Soler also began the day batting .313 in May with a .784 OPS, leading all NL rookies with 35 hits. He just turned 23 years old in spring training.
“He’s just going through a rough patch right now,” Maddon said. “Sometimes you equate big people as being more mature as opposed to their age or their birth certificate. This is a young, big man that’s struggling on the major-league level a little bit.
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“Of course, he’s going to be dejected or disappointed or whatever. He’s going to be fine, though. This guy’s talent is prodigious. He’s going to come out on the other side of this. In the meantime, you got to support him. You got to talk to him. You got to coach him.
“And eventually he comes back out on the other side. This is a player every organization would like to have their hands on right now.”