The now-Royals outfielder’s hustle is being put under the microscope
The Cubs traded highly-talented outfielder Jorge Soler last month in exchange for All-Star closer Wade Davis, but Soler’s name was still mentioned during the Cubs convention this weekend. During a Q&A session with vice president of player development Jason McLeod, a fan asked about players not hustling and how the Cubs deal with it. The answer was a bit of a revelation (via csnchicago.com):
“Coaches get on guys all the time. There are a few times throughout the year where a player will get pulled out of the game,” McLeod said. “This is not trying to harp on ‘Georgie’ at all, but he got yanked a couple of times last year for not hustling out to the outfield, for not running down the line.”
McLeod also mentioned manager Joe Maddon’s favorite motto when it comes to baserunning is “respect 90,” meaning to run hard all 90 feet to first base.
This probably had far less to do with Soler being traded than the outfield logjam and the need for a closer, but it’s a bit interesting to hear.
Also, there was a high-profile instance in the World Series of him not getting out of the box when he should have. This happened in Game 3, an eventual 1-0 loss for the Cubs.
Now, we don’t know if Soler would have scored had he been sprinting out of the box, but that’s kind of the problem, isn’t it? Sure, it was more a misjudging of where the ball would end up than being lazy, but the intent doesn’t matter so much as the action there. He should have been running hard immediately.
Soler’s upside is huge and given the chance to play everyday for the Royals could very well prove to untap his full potential and vault him into All-Star form. But he has struggled with defense, staying healthy — notably his hamstrings — and hustle to this point in his career.
In parts of three seasons, Soler has hit .258/.328/.434 (107 OPS+) with 27 homers and 98 RBI in 765 plate appearances. He’s stepped up his game in the playoffs, carrying a .344/.488/.781 slash with three homers in 32 at-bats. His nine-year, $30 million deal runs through 2020, so the Royals have time to watch him develop on a relatively cheap deal.