Coming off a 101-loss season, the Chicago Cubs could use any ray of hope available for 2013. One of the most obvious prospects is the arrival in the farm system of Cuban signee Jorge Soler, but fans shouldn’t necessarily expect to see him at the major league level this year.
As reported by the Chicago Tribune, manager Dale Sveum suggested that the franchise is in no hurry to promote Soler. “Fast track? There’s no reason to do that,” Sveum commented, citing the almost-21-year-old’s lack of experience with top-level pitching.
Fans, like Sveum, are well aware of how badly the Cub lineup needs the kind of power threat that Soler has obvious potential to provide. Painful though it will be, though, both fans and team will be better served by waiting for the youngster to develop at his own pace.
It's entirely probable that Double-A is the highest Soler will rise this season, and that's just the way it should be.
The fact is, one more offensive weapon is not going to be a difference-maker for the Cubs in 2013. No matter how good Soler will be as a rookie (and that’s very much open for discussion), he won’t save a team that has a wealth of other short-term problems.
The Cubs have all of three offensive players who can be considered pluses, and one of those (veteran Alfonso Soriano) is trade bait. Especially if the team does find a taker for the aging Soriano, plugging in a good young outfielder will be far from sufficient to make the offense competitive.
In addition, the starting rotation is loaded with holes after rising star Jeff Samardzija and veteran Matt Garza (another trade prospect). Chicago simply doesn’t have the pitching depth to be a factor in a tough NL Central next season.
With all those issues in mind, rushing Soler to the majors would accomplish exactly two things: it would pacify short-sighted fans, and it would introduce a huge risk of ruining Soler’s confidence. Nothing is more important to a hitter than believing he can succeed, and that’s exactly what the Cubs could sabotage if they promote Soler before he’s ready.
Fortunately for Theo Epstein and the rest of Chicago’s front office, Wrigley Field will be filled with loyal fans no matter how dreadful the Cubs are. With little incentive to worry about adding one more drop to an ocean of fan frustration, Epstein and his cohorts can delay Soler’s rise to the majors until his bat is ready to take him there.
And given the early forecasts as to how good that bat can be, the NL Central should watch out once he gets there.