Prospect Check: Soler vs Baez


Two of the Cubs’ most recent acquisitions are currently spending time in the minors developing their skills and preparing for their eventual call-up day to the major leagues.

While it’s no shock that both OF Jorge Soler and left IF Javier Baez (So-lair and Bye-ez for those of you keeping score at home) were sought after commodities, Soler had definitely created more buzz in his international signing than Baez did being selected 9th overall in the 2011 draft.

There’s no doubt in my mind that both these men have impact talent and will one day be regular starters in the MLB pending any sort of medical set backs. They both posses the raw talent to get there and stay relevant.

Considering both men are of relative equal size and age (Soler 20, 6’3″ 205 lbs and Baez 19, 6’1″ 205lbs) could it be that one will surpass the other during their developmental stages? Understand that Soler is recognized as a better player in the eyes of the scouting world, but things change in baseball on a daily basis.

It’s a little bit like comparing apples to oranges when comparing IF to OF players, but the message is not lost:

Could Baez ever hit the majors before Soler? If you know me, you know I like numbers, so lets grind out some stats shall we?

Baez spent his 2012 season split between low-A Peoria and high-A daytona seeing significantly more PA and games started with the low-A squad. His numbers show why the Puerto Rican was selected to start so many games in Peoria, going .333/.383/.596 hitting 12 HR and plating 33 in the process. These are very nice numbers but this level of production was to be expected from Baez in this league, even showing his speed having thieved 20 bags.

A quick promotion was in order, and the Cubs did just that. Baez then found himself in a higher level of baseball and his numbers take a turn for the worse. His high-A triple slash was .188/.204/.400 in 86 PA. While this is a small sample size, it’s still enough to be able to draw conclusions from. This trend is also a bit more disturbing considering the Florida State League is known as a hitter’s paradise and can often artificially inflate a player’s numbers.

So why the struggles at the dish?

When Baez arrived in high-A, he would have had to adjust his approach at the plate in order to compensate for a higher level of pitching. Concerns have been raised just recently about his approach and lack of patience at the plate. Considering he’s 19 and the mockery he made of low-A baseball, this isn’t a shock. He will have to mature and learn to adjust his swing accordingly in order to have success moving forward.

Baez is blessed with some insane bat speed which allows him to generate so much power, but this also leads to contact issues. Proper approach at the plate will also aid him in generating more hits as a mature hitter will wait for their pitch rather than try to hack at balls low and away. As he develops, you’ll see some significant changes to his swing, including the elimination of his excessive “bat waggle” which you can see in this video.

Jorger Soler on the other hand spent his 2012 split between the Arizona League and low-A Peoria and had similar results. The Cuban generated a .338/.398/.513 triple slash in 88 PA. While his numbers don’t show his power just yet, he still hit 3 HR in the process. Why so much confidence in his power? If you look at his stature, he’s literally about as wide as a truck from the shoulders down. Once he refines his approach at the plate, works out, and fully grows in to his body, he’ll be a hitting machine. Also worth noting that opposing pitchers have given him a free pass to first 2 times in 20 games. Clearly, he’s feared at the plate.

Aug 8, 2012; San Diego, CA, USA; Chicago Cubs third baseman Josh Vitters (left) walks to the dugout stairs after the Cubs lost to the San Diego Padres 2-0 at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE

Soler indeed shows massive upside, but has the same problems that Baez currently faces. Plate approach and patience are a bit of an issue but Soler shows far more power than Baez does. Soler is easily a ++ raw power, where Baez is not touted as highly by scouts. From watching video on Soler, it appears he lets his mechanics do much of the work. I have yet to see him try to muscle up to a ball and get it out that way – much like a golfer taking a strong but casual drive off the tee. There isn’t a ton of loft to his swing, but his strength and power allows him to hit line drives almost effortlessly.

If both men show so much potential yet the same problems at the plate, what differentiates them? The solution is defense.

Baez is a shortstop by trade with a great instincts but lacks range. His high-A RF/G (range factor/game) is only a 3.57 and I use this stat for its “all encompassing” features. Not that Baez has any problems fielding the ball, but getting to it could be where he shows his weaknesses. His arm also leaves a bit to be desired as he tends to “get under” the ball and have a whipping action to his arm, where I’d prefer to see more good strong throws from short to first.

OF Soler takes the cake overall because of his defensive prowess. The big man is quick and has an arm that collects the ball quickly and delivers it back out with almost just as much speed. He often doesn’t take the best path to the ball, but his ability to get a good read off the bat and his quick jump allow him to make the plays. He’s aggressive – willing lay out to get a ball if he thinks an out can be made. His defensive power and solid batting make him a classic right fielder, which may be an open position in the majors by the time he reaches the show.

For now, both men are big time prospects with big risks associated with them. They hold their fates in their hands.

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