The Chicago Cubs 24-year-old outfielder is off to a slow start in 2016, and with a crowded outfield he seems to be the odd man out. Can he get past his struggles and prove himself or is it time to move on?
It’s no secret that Jorge Soler has power and lots of it. Many will flashback to the 2015 playoffs when Soler reached base in his first nine plate appearances and finished the postseason with a .474 batting and three homer runs. The question is can Soler find consistency throughout an entire season? A guy known for his high strikeout rate (31.4% for his career), struck out just five times in the playoffs, while drawing six walks. Unfortunately, he hasn’t had that success at the big league level.
After striking out four times and going just 1-for-8 in the Cubs doubleheader loss to the Padres yesterday, many are beginning to wonder if it’s time to give up on the young outfielder.
This season, Soler has a .175/.261/.275 slash line in 31 games. He has hit just two home runs and driven in six. He’s struck out 23 times in 80 at-bats which is a bit down (28%) from last season. Another positive is that his walk rate is 3% higher so far this year than last year. Keep in mind that 80 at-bats is a relatively small sample size for a guy not getting a whole lot of playing time. And Soler’s career stat’s aren’t as bad as one may think.
In 2015, Soler had a .262/.324/.399 slash line with 10 home runs and 47 RBI in 101 games. Obviously, for a guy who is seen as having a lot of power, a .399 slugging percent is quite low.
So then why is ever so down on Soler? Well, here are a few reason’s why. Soler’s numbers have seen a downward trend each year. In 2014, Soler slashed .292/.330/.573 in 89 at-bats. Again, a small sample size but the same sample size as this season, which is a complete different. Not to mention that 2015 showed that Soler was not able to sustain that level of success throughout the entire season. And 2016 is starting off even worse than 2015.
Soler also is just an average defender in the outfield, as evidenced by Maddon typically removing him late in the game for defensive purposes. Soler only had two errors in the outfield last year but still is not known for his defensive, as he tends to misread the ball at times or get bad jumps.
Another reason everyone has been hard on Soler is because when Schwarber went down with a season ending injury earlier this season, many saw that moment as an opportunity for him to seize the starting left field job and prove himself. He has yet to do that.
Soler, however, is only 24 years old and there is plenty of time for him to improve. He signed with the Cubs until 2020, as he signed a nine-year, $30 million deal back in 2012. He likely would benefit from regular playing time but he is not going to get that with the big-league club at this time.
It’s unlikely the Cubs will give up on a 24-year-old who has raw power, plus his trade value might not be all that high right now, however, if the his struggles continue further into the season and the Cubs are in position to win games, then the Cubs might be force to make an important decision.
In the meantime though, the Cubs probably should continue to play Soler when the right situation arises. A player can not work through a slump or develop as a big leaguer, if he is not playing everyday. It just becomes harder and harder to give Soler playing time especially when guys like Javier Baez and Tommy LaStella are performing at or above expectations.