Despite crowded outfield, Cubs think Soler can hit reset button in 2016


Despite crowded outfield, Cubs think Soler can hit reset button in 2016

MESA, Ariz. - Dexter Fowler's arrival shook up the Cubs outfield situation, but that doesn't necessarily mean Jorge Soler's value took a major hit.

With the arrival of Fowler and Shane Victorino (who signed Friday morning), it pushes free agent prize Jason Heyward to his Gold Glove position of right field, meaning Soler will move to left primarily, where he will have to compete with Kyle Schwarber for playing time.

[RELATED - Shane Victorino joins Cubs with thoughts of a championship on his mind]

But it's not as simple as looking at it as a platoon in left field. Schwarber will be catching some and he struggled against left-handed pitchers last year (.481 OPS in 61 plate appearances).

Then there's injuries to take into account. Fowler averaged only 128 games a season before playing 156 contests last year. Soler missed 61 games last season and had several injury issues in the minor leagues.

The Cubs believe Joe Maddon can make it all work and with respect to Soler, they feel confident they can unlock his untapped potential.

"There's a lot in there," Maddon said about Soler, who turned 24 Thursday. "A young guy last year who had high expectations, obviously. Didn't get off to the start he's looking for.

"And I don't think he really process the moment as well as he possibly could. I'm not blaming him. He's a young guy getting caught up in the moment. But it's our responsibility to give him more tools to work with, whether it's mentally or physically."

Maddon believes Soler understands what he needs to do now and the Cubs manager also feels another year under Soler's belt in the American culture and learning the language will help out.

Maddon thinks Soler put too much pressure on himself to meet lofty personal expectations last season and when the calendar flipped to the playoffs, the Cubs feel Soler treated it like a new season.

The results followed immediately, as Soler reached base the first nine times he came to the plate in the postseason and wound up hitting .474 with a 1.705 OPS, three doubles and three homers in seven games.

Soler admitted his focus was higher in the playoffs than it was during the regular season, when he struggled to find consistency, posting a .723 OPS in 404 plate appearances.

"We need to get that playoff performance out of him on a more consistent basis," Maddon said. "That's all prep work, I think. It's just a matter of teaching him how to get ready on a daily basis.

"And we will. When we do that, you're gonna see more of that kind of performance on a consistent basis."

[SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

For his part, Soler doesn't seem worried, standing at his locker Friday morning, smiling freely and talking about how excited he is that Fowler is back.

"Right now, I don't worry about my playing time," Soler said through an interpreter. "When I get my opportunity, I'll do my job and do what I can to help the team.

"I'm ready to go out there and do my work."

The Cubs had already talked to Soler about becoming more versatile and getting some reps in left field before the Fowler signing was made public.

Soler hasn't played left at all before in his career, but he is open to learning the new spot.

He also shed 10 pounds in the offseason in an effort to take pressure off his legs and reduce the risk of injury.

"I don't worry about the future," Soler said. "I just worked hard in the offseason to get my body in the best shape."

Podcast: In light of recent hitting coach turmoil, who’s to blame for Cubs offensive struggles?


Podcast: In light of recent hitting coach turmoil, who’s to blame for Cubs offensive struggles?

On the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, David Kaplan, Kelly Crull, Luke Stuckmeyer and Tony Andracki discuss the comments Chili Davis made after being fired as Cubs hitting coach, ask if the Cubs struggles on offense were Davis' fault or the players and what Anthony Iapoce will be walking into as he tries to gets the team back on track a the plate.


Listen to the entire podcast here, or in the embedded player below:


Texas Rangers hire Cubs' Shiraz Rehman to be assistant GM

Texas Rangers hire Cubs' Shiraz Rehman to be assistant GM

The changing of the guard continues for the Cubs this offseason. 

After the team hired a new hitting coach yesterday, it was reported today that they're losing a front office member: 

Rehman, who has been with the Cubs in the same position for the last seven years, will reportedly head up the Rangers' analytics department. According to the Chicago Tribune, Rehman's role was " evaluating existing systems, and recognizing and applying solutions in an effort to create competitive advantages for the organization." 

All reports indicate that he'll be doing similar analytic-based work with the Rangers.