When news hit Monday that the Cubs were promoting their No. 2 prospect Javier Baez to the Majors for the first time, many writers, including this one, lauded the shortstop/second baseman's July and how his performance last month had shot him to The Show.
Well, here's the thing. As good as Baez was in July, Jorge Soler was even better. And even if the calendar has flipped, that hasn't stopped the Cubs' No. 6 prospect from carrying his hot bat into August.
On the same day he was named Cubs Minor League Player of the Month for July, Soler went 3-for-5 with a homer, double and three RBIs in Triple-A Iowa's 7-4 win over Omaha on Tuesday at Werner Park.
After missing most of April, May and June due to hamstring injuries, the 22-year-old outfielder returned to the Double-A Tennessee lineup July 6 and proceeded to put up a .463/.538/1.000 slash line with six homers and 15 RBIs in his next 15 games with the Smokies. Upon a promotion to the Pacific Coast League on July 24, he went 7-for-23 with a pair of homers and four RBIs in his first nine contests with the Cubs' Triple-A affiliate.
All in all, Soler had a .406/.500/.891 line with eight homers and 19 RBIs in 24 games between Tennessee and Iowa last month. Compare that to Baez's July numbers (.300/.344/.655/10/32).
The Cuba native initially stumbled out of the gate in August, going 2-for-14 in his first four games this month before returning to his slugging ways Tuesday.
He smacked an RBI double in the first inning to give Iowa its first run of the afternoon and added a run-scoring single as part of a five-run third inning. His solo homer came in the fifth, meaning Soler only needed a triple for the cycle with four frames to play. He instead struck out swinging in both the seventh and ninth.
Still, it was Soler's first three-hit effort and his first game with multiple extra-base hits since joining the I-Cubs. His line is up to .286/.388/.690 with four homers and 12 RBIs in 14 games in the PCL.
The right-handed slugger has been highly regarded in the Cubs farm system since signing a nine-year contract in June 2012. However, Injury concerns, like the hamstring problems earlier this season, have kept him from truly surging up prospect boards. (He played only 55 games at Class A Advanced Daytona last season due to a left tibia fracture and has been limited to 43 contests so far this season.) MLB.com had him ranked as the No. 49 prospect in the game entering the 2014 season, but he's slipped to No. 53 in the midseason update, even after several above him graduated to the Majors.
Nonetheless, his power and arm tools both received 65 grades. Those should carry the young right fielder to the Majors as part of Chicago's ongoing youth movement that's seen top-100 prospects Arismendy Alcantara and Baez already join the big club.
Of course, Soler isn't the only big-time slugger still on the Iowa roster. Top Cubs prospect Kris Bryant, batting one spot ahead of Soler as the I-Cubs' No. 3 hitter, went 2-for-3 with a walk and two runs scored Tuesday. The powerful third baseman has hits in nine straight games and owns a .321/.427/.660 line in 46 PCL games.
Mike Olt went 2-for-4 and contributed a grand slam as the first baseman/No. 5 hitter in Tuesday's win. The 25-year-old corner infielder was optioned back to Triple-A on July 23 after batting .139 with an 84-to-9 K/BB ratio through 72 games with the big club but seems to have found his form with Iowa. Following Tuesday's performance, he is 20-for-58 (.345) with two homers, seven doubles and 13 RBIs in 15 games with Iowa.