Bears

Who is Jorge Soler?

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Who is Jorge Soler?

The Cubs came to terms with Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler Monday, months after the rumors started to swirl.

The baseball world has been abuzz with the news all day, but Cubs fans are wondering -- and rightfully so -- just who this guy is.

Cubs Insider Patrick Mooney has called Soler the "international man of mystery." And he's right. There's not much the general public knows about the 20-year-old Cuban.

As for size, Soler is somewhere north of 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, and still growing.

Talent-wise, Soler might have been a Top Five pick in the 2012 MLB Draft and was likely a Top 10 pick in the '11 Draft, according to both Kevin Goldstein (Baseball Prospectus) and Keith Law (ESPN Insider).

Soler has been playing some center field now, but he projects as more of a right fielder in the future. Law believes he could be a good defender in right and describes his body as "loose and athletic, something he should retain even if he puts on another 20 pounds of muscle."

Soler's biggest draw is his bat, with raw power that has impressed scouts. Goldstein says Soler will swing and miss and is stiff so far at the plate, but has shown some ability to adjust in international play.

Jim Callis from BaseballAmerica joined David Kaplan on WGNRadio Monday night, and discussed the impact Cuban players have had in the MLB thus far.

"Most of your high-profile Cuban defectors don't live up to all the hype," Callis said. "Alexei Ramirez is one exception. We all remember Jose Contreras. He had some nice moments in this town. It's very early, but Gerardo Concepcion, who the Cubs signed for 7 million in the offseason has not looked like he's been worth 7 this spring.

"These guys get over-hyped a lot of times. From a tool standpoint, you're talking to scouts and Soler has a front arm bar that cuts off his swing a little bit. There's some question as to how high of an average he's going to hit for. He's very, very similar -- younger, but very similar -- to Yoenis Cespedes, who the A's signed earlier this year."

Entering play Monday, Cespedes had an .826 OPS for the Athletics in 145 plate appearances. But of course, he's 26 and was more major-league ready when he signed last winter. Soler is just 20.

So when is the earliest Cubs fans could expect to see Soler roam the outfield at Clark and Addison, assuming he fulfills his potential?

Goldstein says a big-league debut in 2014 is not out of the question, but the most optimistic of scenarios. Law believes Soler's approach will be the determining factor as to how soon the slugger will reach the majors.

Callis felt 2014 was a good projection.

"I would say at least a couple of years," Callis said. "He's only 20. He doesn't have a long history of playing against good competition. He hasn't played in a while since he's defected. He's young and he's going to need time to develop.

"I'd say conservatively, at least two years. If he's in the lineup by the end of 2014, he'll be 22. That's a pretty good accomplishment to get into a major-league lineup by the time you're 22. We're probably talking a good couple years at least."

It's not a move that will help the Cubs climb out of the cellar of the NL Central this season, but it fits with the long-term plan of Theo Epstein and the new front office, as Mooney pointed out.

Chicago Bears 53-man roster projection

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USA Today

Chicago Bears 53-man roster projection

Chicago Bears training camp practices officially get underway Friday, kicking off a time of year when players fight for starting jobs and roster spots. 

The Bears are entering an exciting time. New coach Matt Nagy has brought hope and optimism with him to Chicago while quarterback Mitch Trubisky has embraced his leadership role like a seasoned veteran.

But all the positive press is now in the past; it's time to get back to the action on the field. GM Ryan Pace will have some tough decisions to make later next month and every rep of every practice will factor into who makes the cut for the final 53-man roster.

Here's my first swing at who should make the squad. I'll be updating this projection before Week 3's preseason game against the Chiefs and again before the Week 4 finale against the Bills (note: Hall of Fame game is excluded from preseason weekly schedule).

START CHICAGO BEARS 53-MAN ROSTER PROJECTION

Bears could develop 'twin towers' personnel package at WR with Robinson, White

Bears could develop 'twin towers' personnel package at WR with Robinson, White

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. – Coaches are loath to give away competitive information, which can cover just about anything from play design to flavor of Gatorade dispensed by the training staff. But Matt Nagy offered an intriguing what-if personnel grouping that his offense could confront defenses with in 2018. It’s one that has been overlooked so far, for a variety of reasons.

The what-if personnel pairing is Allen Robinson and Kevin White as the outside receivers, a tandem that would put two 6-foot-3 wide receivers at the disposal of quarterback Mitch Trubisky. The Bears have not had a tandem of effective big receivers since Alshon Jeffery (6-3) and Brandon Marshall (6-4) averaged a combined 159 catches per year from 2012-14.

White’s injury history has relegated him to found-money status in many evaluations, and he has typically been running at Robinson’s spot while the latter was rehabbing this offseason from season-ending knee injury.

But Nagy on Wednesday cited Robinson’s ability to play multiple positions and clearly raised the prospect of his two of his biggest receivers being on the field at the same time.

“The one thing you’ll see here in this offense is that we have guys all over the place in different spots,” said Nagy, who credited GM Ryan Pace with stocking the roster with options at wide receiver. “Ryan did a great job of looking at these certain free agents that we went after, some of these draft picks that we went after and getting guys that are football smart, they have a high football IQ and they’re able to play multiple positions.

“When you can do that, that helps you out as an offensive playcaller to be able to move guys around. Is it going to happen to every single receiver that comes into this offense? No. But we do a pretty job I feel like at balancing of where they’re at position wise, what they can and can’t handle, and then we try to fit them into the process.”

The organization and locker room can be excused for a collective breath-holding on White, who has gone through his third straight positive offseason but whose last two seasons ended abruptly with injuries in the fourth and first games of the 2016 and 2017 seasons.

White was leading the Bears in with 19 receptions through less than four full games in 2016, then was lost with a fractured fibula suffered against Detroit. The injury was all the crueler coming in a game in which White already had been targeted nine times in 41 snaps and had caught six of those Brian Hoyer passes.

White’s roster status has been open to some question with the signings of Robinson and Taylor Gabriel together with the drafting of Anthony Miller. All represent bigger deep threats in terms of average yards per catch than White (9.2 ypc.) at this point: Robinson, 14.1.; Gabriel, 15.1; and Miller, 13.8 (college stats).

But Trubisky’s budding chemistry with White was evident throughout the offseason. And the second-year quarterback has studied what Robinson has been and seen some of what he can be.

“We know he has great hands, he’ll go up and get it,” Trubisky said. “Explosive route-runner. The more reps we get, it’s all about repetitions for us, continue to build that chemistry. Just going against our great defense in practice is going to allow us to compete and get better.”

Folding in the expectations for an expanded presence at tight end (Trey Burton), “targets” will be spread around the offense. How often the Bears go with a Robinson-White “twin towers” look clearly depends in large measure on White’s improvement as well as his availability.

Opportunities will be there. The Kansas City Chiefs ran 51 percent of their 2018 snaps, with Nagy as offensive coordinator, in “11” personnel (one back, one tight end, three receivers, according to Pro Football Focus. Whether White earns his way into that core nickel-wideout package opposite Robinson is part of what training camp and preseason will determine.

“[White] has had a good offseason and just like our team, he needs to carry that momentum into camp,” Pace said. “He’s playing with a lot of confidence right now, he’s very focused. The real expectation, just be the best he can be. Focus on himself, which is what he’s been doing.”