While outfielder Jorge Soler might not have a 20-minute YouTube video showcase being sent out by his agent like his fellow countryman Yoenis Cespedes did before he signed with the Oakland Athletics, there’s a lot to get excited about with the 19-year-old Cuban. Enough, actually, to persuade Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos and other members of his front office staff to watch Soler at the club’s complex in Boca Chica, Dominican Republic today, according to MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez.
The Blue Jays, however, aren’t the only team interested in Soler’s services, as the Cubs, Yankees, Marlins, Red Sox and Phillies, among others, are looking to acquire the toolsy outfielder. That isn’t surprising, considering Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus felt that Soler would be the 39th-best prospect in baseball if both he and Cespedes were included on BP’s Top 101 Prospects list.
The news of the Jays’ apparent interest in Soler comes at an interesting time, almost two days after the Chicago Tribune and other media outlets reported that the 19-year-old has agreed in principle to a $27.5 million contract with the Chicago Cubs. Those reports should be taken with a grain of salt, though, because although Soler is not yet a free agent but is able to sign with a MLB club, one would think that with the considerable interest he is drawing that a bidding war would be more lucrative for him.
Regardless of where he signs, Soler is a high-risk, high-reward type of acquisition.
At 6-foot-3 and roughly 200 pounds, he is a gifted overall athlete that has explosive strength and the potential to be an impact, five-tool right fielder in the Majors. At just 19 years old, though, signing him to an expensive contract with the assumption that he’ll reach his potential in a new country is a difficult decision, just like with other high-profile international free agents.
Soler’s best trait is easily his raw power, a plus tool that could make him quite the prospect if he’s able to improve his overall hitting ability. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal wrote in his article this afternoon that scouts actually say that his power is comparable to that of Miami Marlins right fielder Mike Stanton. Soler’s powerful, accurate arm plays out well in right field and he has above-average potential there as a defender as well. While he’s not considered to be a stolen base threat, Soler is far from a liability on the base paths,
Rosenthal notes that Soler could possibly wind up at first base down the road and that’s where things would get interesting from the Blue Jays’ standpoint. If they were going after Soler with the intention of converting him to a first baseman, the deal would make more sense considering that they don’t have a surplus of power-hitting first basemen in their minor league system right now. Even still, it appears that Soler possesses the prototypical package of an elite right fielder, so don’t bet on him changing positions any time soon.
Another reason for the buzz surrounding Soler right now is because there’s a feeling around baseball that he represents the last available international free agent ahead of the drastic changes to international signings under MLB’s new collective bargaining agreement. Starting this summer, teams will only be allotted a specific amount of money for international signing, and if a team exceeds that amount, they’ll be penalized financially depending on how much they go over. Baseball America provides the details:
“Going over by up to 5 percent kicks in the 75 percent tax; 5-10 percent includes the same tax and a loss of the right to sign more than one player for a bonus of more than $500,000. Go over by 10-15 percent and a team incurs the 100 percent tax and can’t sign any player for more than $500,000. Going over by more than 15 percent draws the 100 percent tax and prohibition to sign any player for more than $250,000.”
In addition to Soler, the Jays watched three other Cuban prospects, Armando Rivera, Henry Urrutia and Omar Luis, according to Sanchez’s article. All three worked out for the Yankees back in November.
Rivera, a 6-foot-3 pitcher, can reach 98 mph with his fastball and features a repertoire that consists of a slider, split-finger fastball, sinker and changeup in his repertoire.
Urrutia, 24, is an outfielder more known for his offensive ability that is the cousin of legendary Cuban player Osmani Urrutia. Debuting in the 2005-06 Cuban Serie Nacional, Urrutia’s career average and OPS are over .300 and .800, respectively, according to Baseball Reference.
Luis, 19, is a left-handed pitcher that tossed a complete game against Canada in July 2010 while playing for Cuba in the World Junior Baseball Championship. He allowed only four hits and finished with 10 strikeouts and five walks.