Instructional league begins on Monday

Instructional league begins on Monday

Instructional league begins on Monday
CHICAGO -- Jorge Soler will join first-round pick Albert Almora and 18 other players taken from this year's First-Year Player Draft in the Cubs' instructional league, starting on Monday in Mesa, Ariz.

There will be more than 40 players participating in the month-long workouts. Games begin on Sept. 21.

Soler, the Cuban outfielder who signed a nine-year, $30 million contract in July, played in Mesa in the Rookie League before he was promoted to Class A Peoria, where he hit .338 with three home runs, five doubles and 15 RBIs in 20 games.

Soler and Almora were roommates and teammates in Mesa before Almora was assigned to Class A Boise, where he batted .292 in 15 games. The Hawks reached the Northwest League championship series, losing in three games. Theo Epstein, Cubs president of baseball operations, sees potential in the organization.

"The lower levels had a lot of cause for excitement, especially at Boise," Epstein said. "It was fun at the end of the year to go up there and look on the field and you literally had a prospect at every position, which is rare in the Minor Leagues. That's the youngest team in the league and they came within four outs of proving they were the best team in the league."

Epstein said he was also happy with the progress of Javier Baez, the Cubs' No. 1 pick in 2011. Baez batted .333 in 57 games with Class A Peoria, hitting 12 home runs, 10 doubles and five triples, and then hit .188 in 23 games at Daytona with four home runs, three doubles and one triple. The shortstop will play for the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League, which starts on Oct. 9.

Other Draft picks to join Soler and Almora in the Cubs' instructional league include pitchers Pierce Johnson and Paul Blackburn, who were taken in the compensation round; and second-round pick Duane Underwood, another right-handed pitcher. Pitcher Ryan McNeil, selected in the third round, will join fifth-round pick Anthony Prieto and sixth-round selection Trey Lang at Mesa.

Other Draft picks to take part include pitchers Nathan Dorris, Corbin Hoffner, Chad Martin, Stephen Perakslis; catchers Chadd Krist and Lance Rymel; infielders David Bote, Ben Carhart, Jacob Rogers and Tim Saunders; and outfielder Bijan Rademacher.

Shawon Dunston Jr., Trevor Gretzky, Dan Vogelbach and Cuban pitcher Gerardo Concepcion also will participate in instructional league. Concepcion was 2-6 with a 7.39 ERA in 12 games at Peoria.