Jorge Soler goes deep in his first at-bat Thursday (picture via @M_Montemurro).
The Cubs had an intrasquad game on Thursday at HoHoKam Park in Mesa, Arizona, marking their first game action (although just a scrimmage of course) of 2013. The game wasn't available on television or radio, but plenty of reporters were provided some quality information from the game, and even some play-by-play on Twitter.
Well, the "White Team" defeated the "Blue Team" 7-3. And there was one moment in the game that had everybody talking: A BOMB from Cubs prospect Jorge Soler, in his first at-bat. And we even have two videos of the homer, which took place on a 3-1 count against Cubs pitching prospect Nick Struck.
The first video (which features some great editing from Tim Sheridan) of the Soler bomb, via Boys of Spring:
And another angle of the homer, via Bleacher Nation:
That's a 20-year-old, folks. What a beast. The ball seems to have a different sound off his bat, doesn't it?
Soler also walked and made a diving catch on a sinking line drive. You get a pretty good idea of why Baseball America recently ranked him No. 34 on their 2013 Top 100 Prospects list.
The other headliner of the game was Starlin Castro's tremendous performance both offensively and defensively. Starlin's already doing his thing at the plate, as he went 3 for 3 today. And defensively, he reportedly (going by what I was seeing on Twitter... make sure to check out our Cubs "list" on Twitter by the way) made a couple terrific plays, including a diving grab to rob top prospect Javier Baez of a base hit.
Here's video of Starlin's diving catch, again via Bleacher Nation:
Starlin sounds very motivated this spring, saying his mental lapses are a thing of the past, that he wants to win a Gold Glove, etc. So don't be surprised if the 23-year-old soon breaks out with a monster season. We know he has the talent to do so, and he should only be improving for a long, long time.
Other things of note from the game:
- Javier Baez certainly deserved a hit in the video you saw above, but otherwise struggled in the game, particularly defensively. He bobbled a routine double play ball (he still got one out) that allowed a run to score. It's possible the exceptionally talented 20-year-old was a bit nervous in his first "game" with the big leaguers and in front of Cubs manager Dale Sveum. No need to worry about Baseball America's No. 16 prospect yet.
- Cubs infield prospect Junior Lake tripled off the centerfield wall in his first at-bat (right after the Soler homer, actually). With Soler, Javier Baez, Albert Almora, and Daniel Vogelbach in the system, Lake's become a bit of a forgotten guy, but is certainly a prospect worth keeping an eye on. He has tremendous tools both offensively and defensively (he has a cannon), and sometimes looks like a future All-Star... while other times looking like he'll be lucky to ever sniff a major league roster. It's about consistency, polish, and at the plate, showing a bit more patience, which is something this new regime will certainly try to drill into his head.
- Veteran outfielders Nate Schierholtz and Brian Bogusevic each homered in the game, which was their Cubs debut... of sorts.
- Dioner Navarro, the Cubs' likely No. 2 catcher, hit a 2-run single. Likely Cubs starting catcher, Welington Castillo, went 1 for 2 at the dish. Welington isn't getting enough talk in my opinion. He needs to really work on his receiving skills as a catcher, but he has an absolute cannon and the ability to be a Gold Glove-esque backstop. And he should also be a .750+ OPS type at the plate, with lots of room for growth. Actually, he's exactly a .750 OPS hitter through 224 MLB plate appearances.
- Anthony Rizzo reached base all three times, going 1 for 1 with 2 walks.
- Ian Stewart doubled to the wall in left-center, and his left wrist is feeling good for the first time in a few years after undergoing surgery. Don't be surprised if he looks a lot more like his pre-2011 self this season, as a bothersome wrist can really, really be a big deal for a hitter (remember when Derrek Lee struggled for a while following his broken wrist?). But... he and Josh Vitters apparently are day-to-day now with quad strains. As of now, he's listed in tomorrow's intrasquad lineup, though.
- Cubs Senior VP of scouting and player development, Jason McLeod, told Northwest Herald's Meghan Montemurro (make sure to give her a follow) that Soler and Baez will likely start the season at Single-A (High-A) Daytona, and Lake will start the year at Triple-A Iowa. All of these moves make sense. And don't expect Soler or Baez to be in Double-A until late in the year, if at all in 2013. Baez struggled greatly at Daytona (.188/.244/.400 in 86 plate appearances) in 2012, after dominating at the lower A-level Peoria (.333/.383/.596 in 235 plate appearances), so he could use a full season-ish there.
- Sveum on Soler: "Pretty nice bat speed we saw. He doesn't seem like a panic type guy. Very poised."
- Schierholtz on Soler: "I'm very impressed by him. You'd never guess he's 20 years old the way he carries himself and how big and strong he is."