As the spring nears and groundskeepers around the country dust offtheir lawn mowers, here at INSIDE PITCH we will be profiling some of
the Mets’ players you might not know enough about, but will want to
keep an eye on in 2006.
Young starting pitching is essential for any success in the Mets’ future, and their rotation is leaning a bit too far towards the geriatric side these days. So, why in the world would Omar Minaya trade away two more young starting pitchers in the last couple of weeks? Getting Carlos Delgado I could understand, Paul LoDuca-not so much. Wasn’t getting Duaner Sanchez enough, did we really need Jorge Julio too? So why did Minaya feel safe to trade Kris Benson and Jae Seo? One main reason is a fella who’s name just keeps popping up in my sideview mirror. Let me introduce you to Alay Soler. Soler is the latest Cuban stud pitcher who will try his hand at the Majors. The Mets actually signed Soler back in August of 2004 a little after he had landed on the shores of Puerto Rico in a makeshift boat from Cuba. The holdup? Well, according to Soler, his agent at the time, Joe Cubas, held up his immigration papers as a way to blackmail him into giving him 15% of his potential contract. According to Cubas, Soler was trying to enter the U.S. with a fake passport and he wasn’t about to be party to fraud. Whatever the truth may be, Soler has recently been granted a visa to the U.S. as a Puerto Rican citizen.
Soler is 26 years old and has basically had the past two-years off. If his stint over the winter in the Puerto Rican league is any indication, his arm looks fresh as can be. Pitching in the low to mid-nineties, with good command of his fastball, Soler dropped his devastating slider on batters while helping the Ponce Lions into the Caribbean League Series this winter. Alay became Ponce’s best pitcher the moment he hopped aboard. He pitched to the tune of a 2.37 ERA, a 0.92 WHIP with 25 K’s in 38 IP. Granted, the Puerto Rican League is not as robust in hitting as the Major Leagues, but in the least, it appears as if Soler will have no problem imposing his will on minor league competition.
A rare bright moment during the Jim Duquette days as GM, the Mets’ threw almost $3 million at Soler in 2004 hoping he would turn into another Jose Contreras or Livan Hernandez. At the time, the Reds, Cubs, and Devil Rays along with the Mets were bidding very competetively for his services. Upon hearing that the Mets signed Soler, Jorge Oquendo, the Reds Latin American scouting director had this to say,
"He’s better than Contreras. He’s stronger, he’s younger. And he’s very smart. He’ll adapt better to the majors. We were ready to cut a deal with him because he thought he could help us right away and even more for the future. But it sounds like we couldn’t compete with the Mets."
Yes, the latest Kris Benson and Jae Seo deals were about bolstering the bullpen while making room in the rotation for Aaron Heilman and Victor Zambrano. But, these winter moves were just as much about the Mets making room to shine some ‘Soler’ power on Shea come this summer. He’s that good!
Cabbie Scout Notes
Command (+++) Fastball (+++)
Competitiveness (++++) Alay Slider (++++)
Health (+++) Soler Changeup (++)
Intelligence (+++) KnuckleCurve (+++)
+ below average
+++ above average
++++ lights out!