Throughout the off-season, we will highlight players and staff weekly who stopped through Iowa on their way to making history with the 2016 World Champion Chicago Cubs. Jorge Soler takes the stage in today's edition.
Jorge Soler, OF
Signed: As an amateur free agent from Cuba in 2012
MLB Debut: August 27, 2014
Iowa Cubs Career (2014-16): 38G, .262 (34-for-130), 23R, 11DBL, 1TPL, 8HR, 30RBI, 20BB, 35K, .360OBP, .906OPS
The Chicago Cubs' front office made a splash on June 30, 2012, when they signed a 20-year-old outfielder from Cuba named Jorge Soler to a nine year, $30 million contract. The front office wasted no time with their first big signing of the rebuilding era in Chicago. Soler didn't waste any time either.
He dominated the Midwest League in his first professional season with the Peoria Chiefs in 2012, hitting .338 with 15 RBI in 20 games. He quickly made his way through the Cubs' system, excelling, but also battling injuries, at every level. He made his Triple-A debut for the Iowa Cubs on July 24, 2014, part of the 3-4-5 punch in a lineup that featured fellow top prospects Javier Baez and Kris Bryant, which provided a foreshadowing of great things to come in Chicago.
Soler appeared in 32 total games for Iowa that season, batting .282 (31-for-110) with eight home runs and 29 RBI. On August 27, after just over a month in Triple-A, he made his major league debut at Great American Ballpark against the Reds. He was batting fifth in the batting order that night in Cincinnati, the same spot he occupied when making his Iowa Cubs debut.
In his first big league at-bat against Reds starting pitcher Mat Latos, Soler smashed a high fastball on a 2-1 count into left-center field for a solo home run. He became just the seventh Cubs player in history to homer in his first career at-bat and the first since Starlin Castro also did it at the same ballpark in 2010.
Soler wasn't done mashing after his debut at-bat. He went on to drive in another run in the eighth inning with a single off Jonathan Broxton, finishing his major league debut 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBI. The next day, Soler went 2-for-4 again, this time with an RBI double. His third career game on August 29 in St. Louis is when he swung for the record books.
On that day at Busch Stadium, Soler went 3-for-3 with two homers and three RBI. He became just the third Cubs player since 1913 to have at least seven hits in his first three career games, joining Coaker Triplett (1938) and Andy Pafko (1943). Soler also became just the fourth player in major league history to have three home runs in his first three career games, joining Charlie Reilly (1889), Joe Cunningham (1954), and his Cubs teammate Javier Baez, who accomplished the extremely rare feat earlier in the same month as Soler.
For as unbelievable as Soler's debut in 2014 was, his career has been plagued by various injuries that have been a barrier in him becoming one of baseball's premier corner outfielders. He has spent six different stints on the disabled list, with injuries including an oblique strain, both right and left hamstring strains and an injured left ankle. In five professional seasons, he's only appeared in 100 or more games on one occasion - in 2015 when he played 101 games for Chicago and four games for Iowa.
Due to the injuries, Soler made brief trips back to Iowa for rehab assignments in both 2015 and 2016, tabbing six total games. He went 3-for-20 overall with one RBI.
Despite the constant injuries, Soler still didn't let them get in the away and kept up his resiliency through the postseason. He had a monster showing in the 2015 NLDS against the Cardinals, going 4-for-7 with two home runs and four RBI. In the process, he became the fourth Cubs rookie at the time to homer in the postseason, joining Frank Demaree (1932), Geovany Soto (2007), and Kyle Schwarber (2015). His playoff excellence did not stop there - he batted .417 (5-for-12) with a home run in the NLCS against the New York Mets.
Soler got off to a slow start in the 2016 postseason, going a combined 0-for-8 in the NLDS and NLCS against the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers, respectively. He appeared in two World Series games, going 2-for-5 with a triple and walk in limited action.
His triple in Game 3 of the World Series proved to be his last plate appearance with the Cubs, as he was dealt in the offseason to the Kansas City Royals for closer Wade Davis.
Soler's career with the Cubs might not have been as long as anticipated, but the fan-favorite, known for his towering home runs and right-arm outfield cannon, leaves Chicago as a 2016 World Series Champion.