Jorge Soler is the next big thing.
Not as big as Yoenis Cespedes, whose four-year, $36 million free-agent contract with the Oakland Athletics almost certainly will be larger than the one Soler receives.
But the demand for Soler, 19, appears even broader, involving more teams than the auction for his fellow Cuban Cespedes, 26.
Soler, a prospect, is drawing attention not only from clubs that lost out on Cespedes, most notably the Chicago Cubs and Miami Marlins, but also from teams such as the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies — and many others.
Scouts say that Soler, a 6-foot-3, 205-pound right-handed hitter, possesses power comparable to that of a player with a similar build, Marlins right fielder Mike Stanton. Soler does not run as well as Stanton, however, and ultimately could end up at first base.
Reports of an agreement between Soler and the Cubs were premature. The Cubs indeed have scouted Soler heavily, according to rival clubs, but the player is not yet a free agent.
Soler’s representative, Barry Praver, would be foolish to lock in a deal before the bidding even begins. Soler, though, is expected to hit the market shortly, and at that point the fun will begin.
New international spending limits for amateurs take effect this summer. Soler is not subject to those restrictions, and Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo has said that he expects Soler to receive more than the $15.5 million contract that the Texas Rangers awarded Cuban outfielder Leonys Martin.
— Ken Rosenthal