This series will look at prospects and show whether they are worth an investment on your fantasy team. Every owner knows that the secret to a strong minors system is knowing who to throw away and knowing who to keep. Each player featured in this series will be given one of the following recommendations:
- Hold ’em : If you own this prospect, hang tight. While times may seem rough, the talent is worth holding onto.
- Fold ’em : If you own this prospect, now is the time to sell while they may still have some name value.
- Walk Away: This prospect is not worth paying attention to in your league.
- Run: Get to the waiver wire immediately and put a claim in for this prospect.
Jorge Soler was one at bat into his 2014 debut with the AA Tennessee Grizzlies when he injured his hamstring, leading to more than a month spent on the disabled list. His performance since his return to baseball last week is just a small reminder that there’s more than just 2 stud prospects in the Cubs minor league system. At 6’3″, 225 lbs Soler has exceptional power to go with good speed on the bases.
Here’s a video of Jorge Soler courtesy of the fine people at Baseball America. It is a quick swing that clearly generates a ton of power.
Jorge Soler defected from Cuba in 2011 and was signed by the Cubs in 2012 to a 9 year $30 million contract. He was on a nearly two-year layoff after last playing in the 2010 World Junior Baseball Championships. In 2012 Soler spent his first 14 games in rookie ball before moving to the Peoria Chiefs in A ball. It didn’t take him long to prove himself too advanced for that level. After such a lengthy time away from baseball it’s pretty remarkable that after a short 14 game stretch, Soler was able to play in A ball and strike out just 6 times in 80 at bats.
Heading into 2013, Soler was ranked as the #34 overall prospect by Baseball America and #36 by Baseball Prospectus. In 2013, Soler missed all but 55 games due to a stress fracture in his left leg, as well a five game suspension. What he did when he played, was continue to show strong on base skills and speed while clubbing 8 home runs in a tough hitting environment.
Heading into this season, I ranked Jorge Soler as the 25th best prospect. Baseball America listed him at 41 and Baseball Prospectus at 45. After missing more than a month, Soler has come back and has been exceptional in AA. He has not stolen any bases yet, but all indications are that his hamstring is fully healed and he’ll be able to when situations arise. It would also be nice to see him hit some balls out of the park, but with just 8 hits this year it is noteworthy that 7 of them have gone for doubles.
Soler has essentially played in just over 100 games since 2010 yet is displaying doubles power and a very good approach at the plate. He should spend 2014 in AA and debut with the Cubs some time in 2015. While he has a major league contract and is on the 40 man roster, it is important for him to get consistent playing time and experience. There is only the .200 hitting Nate Schierholtz blocking Soler at the major league level and no financial incentive to hold him back. His performance will dictate when he is called up; if his first week back is an indication of what lies ahead with every day play, it won’t be long until this other big bat from Tennessee joins the heart of the Chicago Cubs order.
Recommendation: Run. Soler is one of my favorite prospects with his plus power and his solid approach at the plate. In fantasy leagues, his stock may have been highest at the moment he signed with the Cubs. With a full season in 2014, Soler is primed to break out and exceed that level of enthusiasm, not only among Cubs fans but fantasy owners as well. I ranked Soler aggressively going in to 2014, but I’d bet I’m not the only one ranking him inside the top 25 this offseason. Target him everywhere you can as his stock is rising with every game he plays.
Other Prospect Notes:
Francisco Lindor, SS, Cleveland Indians. Twenty-year-old Lindor is slugging .466 with 4 home runs and 9 stolen bases in AA. While he may be “glove-first” his bat is still first-rate. He’s ready for the big leagues and he’s going to be special for fantasy too. Prospect Ranking in 2014 #9. Recommendation: Run
Rougned Odor, 2B, Texas Rangers. The youngest player in the major leagues, Odor has good gap power and the ability to steal double-digit bases. His BB/K rate has never been great averaging 5.5/15 throughout the minors; he could stand to be more selective. Nonetheless, this is an offensive second baseman who may just stick around when Profar returns (we’ve seen him moved before). His big day at the plate on Monday means he’s likely taken almost everywhere, but he’s worth targeting wherever you can. Prospect Ranking in 2014 #46. Recommendation: Run
Bubba Starling, OF, Kansas City Royals. Starling is striking out 30% of the time as a 21-year-old in high A ball. In his 3 pro seasons his ISO has fallen from .210 to .156 to .119. While he’s still young enough to correct his swing, it is [past] time to let someone else worry about it. Prospect Ranking in 2014 #94. Recommendation: Walk Away
Joey Gallo, 3B, Texas Rangers. Blessed with perhaps the best power in the minor leagues, Gallo has cut his K rate from 37% to 27% while upping his walk rate from 11% to 15%. Just 20 years old, Gallo is slashing .318/.414/.698 in A+ while looking like he may stick at least short-term at third base. Prospect Ranking in 2014 N/A. Recommendation: Run Fast
Jesus Aguilar, 1B, Cleveland Indians. Twenty-three year old first baseman Aguilar is absolutely crushing the ball this year in AAA to the tune of .310/.404/.540 with a 14% walk rate and a 19% K rate. Not listed on any preseason rankings, Aguilar has power that should play, even if the hit tool doesn’t support the .300 average. Prospect Ranking in 2014 N/A. Recommendation: Hold ‘Em
Manuel Margot, OF, Boston Red Sox. Centerfielder Margot has shown plenty of speed in the past, but he’s upped his ISO to .145 this year in A ball as a 19-year-old. A good BB and K rate and it looks like the young toolsy prospect with excellent bat speed is developing nicely. Prospect Ranking in 2014 N/A. Recommendation: Hold ‘Em
If you’re gonna play the game boy, you gotta learn to play it right.