Chicago Cubs prospect Jorge Soler is in hot water because of his actions during a game with the High-A Daytona Cubs on Wednesday night.
In the seventh inning against Clearwater, Philadelphia's High-A affiliate, Soler was thrown out at second base trying to break up a double play. As he slid into the bag, second baseman Carlos Alonso landed on him making the throw back to first base.
According to Patrick Mooney of Comcast SportsNet Chicago, the benches emptied soon after, and Soler led the charge for Daytona by grabbing a bat from the dugout and heading toward the Clearwater dugout:
The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Soler took a bat from the Daytona dugout and motioned toward the other side. Robbie Aaron, Daytona’s director of broadcasting and media relations, indicated that Soler did not strike the Clearwater dugout with the bat (which was a description spread on social media).
UPDATE: Thursday, April 11 at 2:25 p.m. ET
According to Sarah Spain of ESPNChicago.com, Soler has been suspended:
---End of Update---
For the record, when all of the preseason prospect reports came out, there was nothing written about any character or make-up concerns with Soler to my knowledge.
Mooney's report says the Chicago Cubs are investigating the incident to see what led to Soler wielding a bat to threaten the Clearwater dugout.
How will this impact Soler's career? Let's examine how using a bat outside the batter's box affected Delmon Young, another highly touted minor league player.
Young was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2003 draft by Tampa Bay. At Triple-A Durham in 2006, Young was called out on strikes on a pitch that appeared to be off the plate. He jawed with the umpire and got thrown out of the game on his way to the dugout; he then threw his bat and hit the umpire in the chest.
Randy Mobley, president of the International League, suspended Young 50 games without pay as a result.
Young returned later that season and even got called up by the Rays for 30 games at the end of 2006. He played in the big leagues the entire 2007 season, appearing in all 162 games and hitting .288/.316/.408 with 13 home runs and 93 RBI.
Because the Rays traded Young more than a full year after his bat-throwing incident, it is hard to say that was the only reason, or even the biggest reason, they dealt him.
Remember, when the Rays drafted Young, it was under the leadership of general manager Chuck LaMar's staff and the previous ownership group. Stuart Sternberg didn't purchase a majority stake in the franchise until 2005, which is also when Andrew Friedman, who has been instrumental in bringing analytics into that front office, came on as general manager.
Young wasn't "their" player. The regime that drafted and largely developed him also helped bury the franchise for years. The new group did give him a shot to play in the big leagues, but there were clear signs he would struggle to live up to his potential as a No. 1 overall pick.
Young's approach at the plate was always bad, as he swung at anything close to the zone and had a 289-98 strikeout-to-walk ratio in the minors (via Baseball-Reference.com). His defense in the outfield has always been dreadful too.
Since Tampa Bay drafted Young out of high school, scouts banked on his body to develop into that of a prototypical power-hitting outfielder. Instead, he ballooned up and never had an athletic body after filling out.
The Rays probably saw an opportunity to maximize Young's value as a young, cost-effective player not that far removed from being labeled the top prospect in baseball by Baseball America, so they flipped him for a pitcher in Garza who had a good arm and high upside.
Bringing this back to Soler, it's unlikely this particular incident has any impact on his future with the Cubs for a variety of reasons.
First, as mentioned before, there is not one scouting report out there that raises concerns over Soler's character or make-up. That could change later this year or next season if similar incidents keep occurring, though we also don't have the context as to what caused him to lose his temper.
We don't know if Soler felt provoked by the Clearwater players, if he thought the second baseman deliberately tried to hurt him or anything like that. All that is out there right now are reports and hearsay. That's why the Cubs are doing their due diligence to get to the bottom of this.
Second, the Cubs have invested a lot of money and hope in Soler. Remember, he came out of Cuba with a lot of hype and agreed to a nine-year, $30 million contract with the team last June. Baseball America ranked him as one of the team's top three prospects heading into this season.
Third, Soler is loaded with talent. He will need time to develop it in the minors, but as long as he shows he can play in the big leagues (he'll likely arrive in MLB at some point in 2014), the Cubs will work with him to make sure incidents like this don't happen again.
On the off chance this wasn't just an isolated incident for Soler, we know that teams will overlook a lot of things to give playing time to youngsters with tons of potential.
Players lose their cool on the field all the time. It doesn't always mean they have character or make-up concerns. It just means they get caught up in the heat of the moment and emotion takes over their brain.
The Cubs will talk with Soler to figure out what exactly happened and why, let him serve the eventual suspension that comes down from this incident and carry on with business as usual.
Soler is a much better athlete than Delmon Young was at the age of 21. He has more tools and is more likely to reach his ceiling than Young has ever been. To think the Cubs will look to move away from him is ridiculous.
Until we know and see more proof that Soler has anger/character issues, on or off the field, there is no reason to expect him to act like this again. He will do what the team needs him to do and eventually make his way to Wrigley Field as the starting right fielder for the Chicago Cubs.
That is exactly what Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer had in mind when they signed Soler last year.
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