Yank Tank: Jorge Soler’s Massive Size and Potential Exciting, Overlooked
Every time I watch a Cubs highlight clip this spring, I feel as though I’ve happened upon some late-night feature on Cinemax. Given the arousing nature of such material, I suppose it’s fitting that the commercial running on CSNChicago.com was for Trojan Double Ecstasy.
I came across the prophylactic promotion while reviewing Patrick Mooney’s piece on Jorge Soler, a man who has gone largely overlooked in the wake of all the Kris Bryant hype. And that’s understandable; not only does Bryant sit atop all the prospect lists, he’s smooth, polished, and, well…American. Simply put, Bryant is a great deal more marketable.
But where Bryant’s the sleek and sexy supercar with perfect lines and carbon fiber brilliance, Soler is the thundering and menacing hulk of carbureted American muscle. Bryant is the All-World quarterback with the perfect smile while Soler is the bruising middle linebacker whose size alone (he’s now listed at 6’4″ and 240 pounds) is intimidating.
The enormous Cuban outfielder seems to impose his will on the game in a manner that belies early reports of his laziness. From approaching the opposing dugout with a bat to approaching the Gateway Arch with a batted ball, I have seen little to indicate that Soler doesn’t care. Likewise, I’ve seen nothing to indicate that his aforementioned incident was anything more than an aberration, perhaps brought on by the struggle to adjust to a new culture.
But it sure hasn’t taken long for the young man to adjust to the game at the MLB level, impressing everyone with his advanced approach and insane power. Personally, I’m in awe of the man. To see someone that big move as well as he does is one thing, but to see the way he terminates pitches with extreme prejudice elicits an almost visceral response (check out my daughter’s post for a video example). What mangoes are to George Costanza, that fruitful swing is to me.
And I’m not alone either, as you can count Joe Maddon among the growing legions of the Jorge Soler Fan Club. “He’s a beautiful man, though. I really, really enjoy the way he is” gushed the Cubs skipper. “Just the whole package, how he is, I’m impressed. That’s a big part of why I’m so excited about him.”
Many might fear that the early success and such praise from his manager or super-famous bloggers like me could go straight to the young man’s head. Maddon, however, summarily dispelled such notions Saturday, explaining that “You could talk about him as much as you want. The fact that he doesn’t really understand or speak English really well might work in his favor right now.”
While it would be easy to dismiss this as just another flippant comment from a man with a seemingly endless supply of great quips, I see a bit more dimension to it. Here’s a guy who’s still working to learn the language, who is still adjusting to the move from Cuba to the States. Who went from walking streets crowded with thousands of Yank Tanks from the 50’s to being able to afford pretty much any set of wheels he would like. I’m impressed by how the Soler, or any player from a similar background, can find success this quickly.
Consider too that Soler’s health has hampered his development and certainly led to some of the talk that he lacked hustle. The Cubs had been very careful in how they handled their budding young star though, a trend that is likely to continue until he proves that he can avoid injury for a significant stretch. His balky legs seem to be all that stands in the way of Soler becoming an absolute nightmare for NL pitchers.
So while Bryant has been the talk of camp, Soler has the potential to have just as big an impact on the team this season and beyond. Talk about double ecstasy.