Being a fan of any sport gives us a huge distinct advantage over the management of any of these teams we love. We get to second guess and evaluate the players without any repercussions. In fact, we can declare any player a superstar or a complete bum on any given day. We can do this with absolutely no consequences for our judgements.
In the real world of sports, things are much different. Each and every move you make will be put under a microscope. Then add a bit more pressure to the job by throwing money into the equation. Management gives you this privilege because they want to see a return on their investment. Make a few moves that have a negative return and your career in sports management may be over!
So this brings us to the current situation with Jorge Soler. Fans have been pretty quick to start calling for his removal as a Chicago Cub. We’ve seen more and more social media posts calling for the Cubs to trade Georgie and trade him now. In a world that only asks, “what have you done for me lately,” Soler’s production from last fall is all but forgotten. But it was Jorge Soler that was the primary factor that helped the Cubs advance past the Cardinals last year. Without his hot bat, the results could have been very different.
So which is it? Is Soler one of the core four from just 12 months ago or is he the under .200 hitter that seems so lost right now? The truth is, he is probably somewhere in the middle. Another truth is, it is really hard to be a superstar at the major league level. This isn’t little league. These are the best of the best in baseball.
It’s sometimes hard to realize this as a fan. We see a guy like Jake Arrieta put up video game numbers and we assume he will always be a superstar. But the media quickly slaps us back to reality by reminding us how poor Arrieta’s results were as a member of the Baltimore Orioles. So we then tend to chuckle as fans because we think we got over on Baltimore. We stole Jake Arrieta from their organization.
But this goes back to how difficult it really is to evaluate players. It’s even more difficult to project what they will become in the future. If we understand this, we can realize that it’s still very difficult to know what we have in Jorge Soler. He is still just 24 years old. Most major leaguers have their best production years between age 27 and 32.
Most guys make it to the majors on pure talent. Then it may take a few years to really adjust. Everyone in the majors looks to take advantage of any weakness you may have as a player. Players to come to terms with the idea that they are no longer a big fish in a small pond. When they realize they are just another bozo on the bus, they learn to strengthen those weaknesses or at least minimize them as to not negatively affect their production.
We have already spoke of Arrieta’s rise as a player. He s not a rare case. His results are rare but the process of prospect becoming one of the better players in the majors is not. Here are a few more examples:
Player number one will turn 27 years old in August. He wasn’t a no doubter when drafted; in fact, he dropped to the 6th round before his name was called. He was a big drink of water that had the size and all the tools. But his scouting report talked about holes in his game against left handed pitching. Many of those holes were exposed in his major league debut.
He played in only 49 games that season and had 153 AB’s. It was truly awful! He had a line of .141/.281/.242 and had a miserable strikeout rate of 30.1%. We’re pretty sure fans that saw him play at that time were screaming to trade the bum and they would get their wish. The player is Anthony Rizzo!
Player #2 was a first round draft choice but was the 25th pick overall. This means 24 other teams passed on him before his name was called. He will be only 25 years old in August but his first year was less than stellar. He has to be considered extremely rare since he made his major league debut at age 19! But the line was .220/.281/.390 with only 5 HR and 16 RBI’s.
Nothing in those stats would make fans get excited. Yet his organization stood firm and kept him around. Their patience would pay off and see him named as one the the games best players. The player is Mike Trout!
It could be argued by some that both of these players had an extremely small sample size in which to draw conclusions. This is also true with Jorge Soler. Soler has been in the league a little over a year and is just now approaching 600 AB’s. But player # 3 is more indicative of what happens to many players.
Player #3 is now 30 years old. He was a first round supplemental pick and went #48 overall. He made his major league debut at age 24 in 2010 and made such a great impression that he was assigned back to the minors for about 2 more years! He got his shot again in 2012 at age 26 where he produced a mild line of .241/.289/.398 with only 9 HR’s and 33 RBI’s in 75 games or 294 AB’s.
Then something clicked at age 27 where his production line of .301/.384/.499 with 24 HR’s and 93 RBI’s earned him a 4th place finish in MVP voting for the season. Eventually he would be traded and earned his first MVP last year at age 29. The player is Josh Donaldson!
Our last player to be highlighted is the classical “late bloomer.” No one really thought much of him because he wasn’t drafted until the 20th round. Guys that are drafted this late are usually considered organizational guys that just fill in the rosters up and down the developmental ladder. He made a few appliances in the majors for a cup of coffee but had his first full season in at age 25 for the Pirates in 2006.
His results never raised an eyebrow and basically filled a roster spot in Pittsburgh for a team that was stuck at or near the bottom of the standings. He was traded late in the 2008 to the American league where much of the same occurred. Then in 2009 at age 28 something must have finally clicked. He had his first taste of success and ended the year with a fWAR of 1.8. This was the first season he scored a fWAR over 1.0.
The next year at age 29 he made his first All-Star appearance, was 4th in MVP voting and landed a Silver Slugger award. These are now an every year occurrences for him and is considered one of the games biggest HR threats. He is now 35 years old and seems to get you a 4.0+ fWAR each year. This player is Jose Bautista!
Here’s the bottom line. We’re just not sure what Jorge Soler will be as a major league player. The jury is still out. One thing is sure. He’s in a funk right now and maybe the sophomore jinx has something to do with it. Maybe it’s just a player still adjusting to playing against the very best in the profession.
We should also remember that the Cubs were unable to cut a trade last Winter because they felt other teams undervalued the asset. His current slump does’t help that perception. To shop Soler know would be fruitless. You wouldn’t get a piece that could improve the 2016 team. In fact the best you could hope for is a low level prospect that would have all the same risks Soler has right now but you would still need to wait about 2 years before the prospect would be ready to make an appearance in Wrigley.
Either way, it just doesn’t help a team looking to go for a championship this year. It may even leave you worse off than you are right now. Another injury to an outfielder like Heyward or Fowler might really leave you in a bind. The best we should hope for is that Joe Maddon continues to play Soler where he has the best chance at success. This in turn will hopefully get Soler on track again.
We still may see a trade of Soler and then again maybe we don’t. If the guy that showed up against the Cardinals last fall make his presence known, the Cubs would have struck gold again. He would make your lineup so much stronger or if he is traded, the return is more in line of what the Cubs felt his value was all along.
Just too early to know…..