Jorge Soler, Javier Baez and where Cubs lineup goes from here

Jorge Soler, Javier Baez and where Cubs lineup goes from here
August 28, 2014, 4:30 pm
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There’s a little bit of the Backup Quarterback Syndrome going around with the Cubs prospects.

Javier Baez can hit bombs onto Waveland Avenue, but Jorge Soler is actually the one with the plate discipline and a much better approach. 

Starlin Castro became a three-time All-Star before his 25th birthday, but Addison Russell can really play shortstop, never making mental mistakes and always sprinting out of the box like Usain Bolt.  

Anyone remember Arismendy Alcantara’s 15 minutes of fame? 

The bar for Kris Bryant is set at getting 100 percent of the vote in the 2034 Hall of Fame ballot.
Despite all the told-you-so posturing on Twitter, no one knows if this big experiment will be a smashing success or a huge failure. But you can bet it’s going to be OMG! fun to watch and !#&*!%$ frustrating.  

[MORE: Cubs: How Jorge Soler turned himself into a prime-time player]

“We’re going to be a fairly high strikeout team going forward,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. “That’s the natures of the guys we have.”

As part of a Great American Ball Park promotion, the crowd of 21,316 could get free pizza after the Cubs struck out 11 times during Thursday’s 7-2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds. The Cubs (59-74) began the day second in the National League in strikeouts, and next-to-last in on-base percentage (.298) and hitting with runners in scoring position (.223). 

Even while conceding it “definitely is a higher strikeout environment in baseball in general,” Hoyer admitted “this has been extreme.” 

Still, the Cubs understand they can’t clone “The Greek God of Walks” or recreate the 2004 Boston Red Sox, even with Manny Ramirez and Bill Mueller on staff.

It’s been a monster first full season in professional baseball for Bryant, putting up 43 homers and 109 RBI while striking out 157 times in 134 games split between Triple-A Iowa and Double-A Tennessee.

Baez has seven homers and 43 strikeouts through his first 99 plate appearances in The Show.

“Those guys are going to strike out,” Hoyer said. “It’s going to be part of their game. But I think if they’re doing damage, you’d probably feel differently. (As) they mature, they’ll probably learn: OK, this is a count, this is an at-bat (where) I can’t strike out or I need to really look to put the ball in play.”

Also remember that Baez has needed time to adjust at each new level before heating up and dominating. He will look out of control at times, twisting his entire body and falling to one knee. 

[RELATED: Jorge Soler homers, but Cubs can't quiet Reds in loss]

“Right field is such a strength for him,” Hoyer said, “that a lot of times I think some of those wilder swings will go away as he realizes a run is a run, whether it’s in the upper deck or not. He’s got so much power the other way, he’ll use that to his advantage more.”

The day after homering in his first big-league at-bat, Soler went 2-for-4 with an RBI and two strikeouts in Cincinnati. His inexperience at the system’s upper levels — 22 games at Tennessee (1.355 OPS) and essentially a great month at Iowa (.996 OPS) — underlines the sky-high potential and the sharp learning curve ahead.

All this leads into a long weekend at Busch Stadium and four games against a St. Louis Cardinals team fighting for first place. The Cubs want Soler and Baez to see great pitching now and feel the heat of a pennant race from the other side. 

Whatever happens in September, the Cubs realize they need to put some veteran leaders inside the clubhouse and add established hitters to their lineup. 

“There’s not a lot of bats available,” Hoyer admitted, looking ahead to the next class of free agents. “There’s a lot of positions on the field that we want to dedicate to the guys that are here, or young players (on the way). But I do think that it’s important to have some veteran guys with a good approach these guys can lean on, (because) right now we don’t really have (that).

“Some of the guys (here with) a little bit more service time (are) kind of fighting to keep a job. As a result, it’s hard to ask them to mentor when their focus is on themselves. It’s certainly something we want to find. It’s hard to find right now. But I do think it will help all those young guys to have that.”  

Maybe that will take some of the pressure off all the kids who are supposed to be the next big thing.