By Mark Grote–
(CBS) At 6-foot-4, 215 pounds and packed with muscle, it’s possible that Cubs right fielder Jorge Soler would be the gold medalist if the team was to hold a strongest man competition.
“Yea, I think I might be,” a smiling Soler said through his interpreter, Franklin Font.
Bench coach Dave Martinez has referred to Soler as a “monster” in the past due to his imposing build. As ripped as Soler is, there hasn’t been a home run correlation. He has 10 homers in 403 at-bats since he was called up in 2014, including five this season in 314 at-bats.
“Trajectory,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “If I had to guess, just the fact that he is trying to make hard contact is promoting more of a flat swing.”
Soler also seems to have lost a level of the plate discipline over which scouts raved last season and even in spring training this year. He now has 105 strikeouts in 344 plate appearances this season, a strikeout rate of 30.5 percent.
“He’s chased below the zone a little bit more than last season,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “He’s going to have to learn how to get out of it and work on some things. But the tools are all there, and we know it’s in there, and he’ll do it in the future.”
While Soler has had trouble finding the bleachers, a simple single off his bat can have a startling sound.
“He is one of the best in baseball in terms of velocity off the bat,” Hoyer said. “He just hasn’t been able to elevate the ball.”
Those base hits have been timely over the last month. Soler has 16 RBIs with runners in scoring position since July 12, and he has been passing on pitches which he had been chasing earlier in the season.
“I’ve been working on being more selective and patient at the plate,” Soler said. “Of course I want to hit more home runs to help the team, but this is what’s going on right now.”
Soler also insisted that there hasn’t been any kind of residual effect from an ankle injury that forced him to miss a month earlier this season.
Cub’s president of baseball operations Theo Epstein believes that the long ball will come for Soler.
“Traditionally, players who hit the ball that hard, through time, learn how to loft the ball,” Epstein said. “When he does that, look out.”
Could be a monster in the making.
Mark Grote is the Cubs pregame and postgame host on WBBM. Follow him on Twitter @markgrotesports.