One-by-one, the Chicago Cubs are giving us a glimpse at their promising future. And one-by-one, we've seen flashes of future brilliance.
Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler, who inked a nine-year, $30 million deal with Chicago in 2012, became the latest building block to get the call from Triple-A Iowa. On Wednesday, he made his major league debut at the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, and his impact was felt immediately. After Luis Valbuena led off Chicago's second inning with a home run, Soler stepped in for his first career at-bat and hammered Mat Latos' 2-1 fastball 423-feet to center field, making it back-to-back jacks for the Cubs.
In doing so, Soler became the first Cubs player to homer in his first at-bat since Starlin Castro on May 7, 2010. Ironically, that also came at Great American Ball Park.
Soler basically picked up where he left off at Triple A. In his final at-bat for Iowa, Soler connected for a three-run homer before being removed in the third inning and promoted essentially on the spot. It worked out so well that it felt like a spontaneous decision by Chicago's brass, but they are obviously putting far more thought than that into their future prospects.
"The key to the decision on Soler was the fact that he was going to be a September callup for us mainly because he needs the at-bats," Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said Wednesday. "He missed significant time because of the hamstring injury. He needs to play, he needs to get the at-bats.
"We've been certain in our minds for a while now that he was going to be a September call up for us. It's the best place for him to continue to get at-bats, continue to learn, continue to make adjustments."
The Cubs have applied the same philosophy to young stars Arismendy Alcantara and Javier Baez, both of whom have debuted this season and are currently going through their expected growing pains. Baez, in particular, is struggling adjusting to major league pitching, hitting only. 198 coming into Wednesday. But his pure power (seven home runs in 21 games) is obvious, and the experience can only help.
Getting Soler used to the major league grind and the constant game of adjustments will give him a head-start on 2015, where it's safe to assume he'll be counted on as an every day outfielder. In fact, he already showed promising signs on Wednesday, jumping on a 1-0 fastball for an RBI single in the eighth. In his previous at-bat, he saw nothing but sliders deep in the count and eventually struck out. He was clearly looking to be more aggressive, and that approach paid off.
Unfortunately, his good debut wasn't enough to save the Cubs. They ended up falling 7-5 to the Reds. But two good swings and a nice approach on Wednesday served notice that he has arrived and the Cubs lineup is about to become a lot more dangerous.
Beware, National League.
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