Coming attractions: Jorge Soler shows off his power

Coming attractions: Jorge Soler shows off his power
February 21, 2013, 7:45 pm
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MESA, Ariz. -- There was a pair of red-white-and-blue Nike cleats at the bottom of the locker next to Starlin Castro’s. Side-by-side, the back of the shoes spelled out two words: JORGE SOLER.

We’re pretty sure Nike won’t be rolling out a line of Air Solers this spring. The $30 million Cuban defector is likely ticketed for Class-A Daytona to start the season. But he does have an idea of how much the fans in Chicago are looking forward to watching him play.

“Si,” Soler said.

After drawing a crowd taking batting practice at Fitch Park, Soler showed off his power during Thursday’s five-inning intrasquad scrimmage at HoHoKam Stadium. The veteran White team won 7-3. But for a franchise looking toward the future, the focus inevitably shifted to the Blue kids squad.

Soler drove a pitch from Nick Struck – the organization’s minor league pitcher of the year in 2012 – toward left field as Alfonso Soriano watched it sail over the fence. Soler also drew a walk, showing the patience the Cubs hope he will develop at the plate.

OK, now it’s time to channel Allen Iverson and remind everyone: We’re talking about practice.

But for a player who missed roughly two years of real game action as the Soler sweepstakes played out – moving to the Dominican Republic, establishing residency in Haiti and signing with the Cubs – this time on the field matters.

“It’s really, really important for me,” Soler said through an interpreter. “You play every day, you learn a lot about baseball.”

Long before Theo Epstein’s crew took over at Clark and Addison, the Cubs had a history of hyping their prospects. Fans still remember the names (think Felix Pie) that didn’t hit it big. Assistant coach/translator Franklin Font said Soler wants to make his mark on the North Side.

“I want to do everything on the field,” Soler said, “to do better for the Chicago Cubs.”

Dale Sveum sees more talent in camp, but what else is he supposed to say after a 101-loss season? The manager watched Javier Baez at shortstop and called his defense “a little shaky.” Another prospect trying to open eyes – Junior Lake – drove a ball off the wall in center and raced for a triple.

It will take years before we know whether this means anything or not.

“There are some guys on that radar right now that could possibly be impact players someday,” Sveum said. “It’s just nice seeing these guys play, because we’ve all come across tools guys and bat speed and all that and it never seems to pan out.”