While much of the attention this off-season has been focused on Cuban sensation Yoennis Cespedes, and rightfully so because of his awesome YouTube video, another Cuban import has been flying (rafting?) under the radar. 19 year old OF Jorge Soler has been gaining enough of his own attention, despite the well-chiseled shadow of Cespedes looming over him. The talented Soler has appeared to have garnered interest from the usual suspects in the Phillies and Yankees, as well as the new free agent bully on the block, the Marlins. C’mon Florida, if you are going to be a free agent bully, you are going to have to get more intimidating uniforms. Maybe there is some interest coming from north of the border as well? The Jays seem to be in on most major international players the last couple of years. Well, at least before the new CBA.
One name that has been missing from the Soler conversation, that has been prominent in the Cespedes talk, is the Detroit Tigers. David Dombrowski has reportedly been to a private workout for Cespedes and is also going to see him play in the Dominican Republic. This is actually quite rare for Dombrowski and the Tigers to get involved in the bidding for a “sweepstakes” player like Cespedes, so there must be some genuine interest. Given that some scouts believe that Soler will eventually become the better player, I would hope that the Tigers put some attention to Soler as well.
Information on Soler and his game isn’t the easiest to come by, but from what I have found, like any other prospect guy, I like what I hear. Soler is a possessor of the highly coveted 5 tool talent label, and given the lack of such talent in the Tigers farm system, adding Soler would be a coup. In fact, maybe the Tigers could get a two-for-one here. Sign Cespedes and Soler so both players have a comfort level in their transition to American and Major League Baseball.
I will summarize a little bit of a “scouting report” that I found here from the Washington Post. Basically, Soler has a great frame for a potential power hitting corner outfielder. He is already 6’3″ and has the shoulders to add significant muscle. He is athletic at this point, and actually plays CF right now, but as he improves his muscle mass most believe that he will move to RF. He possesses a strong arm, has a good idea at the plate, and presently runs well. Sounds similar to the profile of a young Vladimir Guerrero to me. Now, I am not saying Soler is going to have that kind of career. Players that reach lofty ceilings like that are pretty rare. But when comparing the two Cuban players on the market, the better value might actually be in Soler. His high ceiling coupled with his lower cost, make him an attractive alternative to Cespedes.
If the Tigers can get Soler for around 20M dollars for three years, as opposed to Cespedes for at least twice that amount, why would they not consider this? The big thing in Yoennis’ favor is that he is more major league ready right now, obviously helping the Tigers in the present. Soler still has some development left, but if all goes well, he could be in the majors by the time he is 21 years old. He would instantly become a top 5 prospect for the Tigers however, and at the very least add to a system that needs talent infusion.
There is clearly going to be some competition for both of these players. Given the relatively high population of Cuban people in Miami, the Marlins seem like a natural fit for both guys. Soler is attached to the Marlins probably more than any other team. As you can tell from the above linked article, there is interest from the Nationals as well. Maybe that is just some poetic justice at work, the team from the nation’s capital potentially signing two Cuban players, but I tend to think it’s just because Cespedes and Soler can play baseball.
As Jorge Soler emerges from the shadows of his fellow Cuban Yoennis Cespedes, hopefully the Tigers will come out the shadows to get involved in the bidding for him. After all, some talents are worth paying for.