Batter’s Box: Soler Power
(Photo by Gerry Angus/Icon Sportswire)
How many times have you heard the phrase “prospect growth isn’t linear?” If you listen to Paul Sporer, and you should if you don’t, you’ve heard it plenty. Paul is always telling his fellow nerds, myself included, about how patient they should be with prospects as these young men navigate being a big leaguer. Word on the street is that it’s harder than just compiling fantasy stats, and sometimes, guys don’t immediately become successes overnight. Hence…it is not linear. Anyways, I want to focus on one of those guys who we all probably could have used some patience on the last few years: Jorge Soler. It’s taken him until the age of 26 and a change of scenery, but he finally looks like the guy who was touted as a top prospect just two or three years ago.
Last night’s 4-5, 2 R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI line was just one of the many fine nights he’s had this year, and he’s used those to compile a 24 R/7 HR/23 RBI/3 SB line for the year. Not overwhelming numbers, but needless to say, he’s going to smash all of his previous career-highs if this continues. By a lot. See those? Not a very high bar for him to pass, but it is what it is. There’s a number of reasons why he hasn’t been able to string together a full year of production in previous year’s, but the fact is we’ve got a guy seemingly putting it all together. He’s been an OBP machine, especially, and a 100 point jump in BB/K rate has been a big reason why. His hard contact rate of 41.9% (according to Baseball Savant) is his highest mark since 2015, and he’s even swiping bases now. It’s true he has cooled a bit in May posting an OPS of just .745 after his .916 in April, but I’m still buying into what looks like a breakout so far. I’m hanging on to the shares I have and curious to find out where the journey ends.
Let’s take a look at some of the other performances from Wednesday:
Yonder Alonso (1B, Cleveland Indians) – 3-5, R. My baby dawg here is red hot as he’s now slashing .333/.396/.542 over the last two weeks. What makes him my baby dog? I’m not sure, but doesn’t it sound fun? At his lowest of lows this season, which happened around May 5th, he was batting .207. He’s raised that all the way to .253 as of this writing. It’s a marathon, people. Suddenly, the 28 dongs from a year ago don’t feel like such an outlier.
Nick Castellanos (3B/OF, Detroit Tigers) – 3-5, 2 2B, RBI. He’s been absolutely punishing the ball this year slashing .322/.369/.497 thus far. Take it easy on the ball, Nicholas! However, he’s flying a bit too close to the sun with that .391 BABIP at the moment, and his barrel percentage is down from the last two years. I still think he’s one of those guys who will have a soft landing when he cools off eventually. I contacted my fictitious friend, OBP Ollie, for his thoughts on Castellanos. He said the .369 is pretty, but take a walk for cryin’ out loud! He’s got just one over the last two weeks after all, which makes that .369 all the more impressive.
Dexter Fowler (OF, St. Louis Cardinals) – 3-4, R. It’s been really ugly this year, folks. No sense in sugar coating it. Fowler has been plain bad. But hey! He has been hitting .286 over the last week. That’s something, right?! Anyways, the BABIP of .188 says it all, I feel. It’s got to get better for him at SOME point. After all, that’s well under 100 points below his career average. I would say stay patient, but I don’t believe he provides enough value to do so.
John Ryan Murphy (C, Arizona Diamondbacks) – 3-5, 2 R, HR, 2B, RBI. Gotta give him a shoutout even though he’s not a regular starter. I have to point out that Murphy now has 7 HR in just 75 at-bats this year, which means…1 HR every 10.5 at bats or so? Great. Put it in the bank. But in all seriousness, the Diamondbacks carry 3 catchers on the 25-man roster right now for some reason, so don’t read into this for more than what it is. It’s just a good night from Murphy. Next!
Eugenio Suarez (3B, Cincinnati Reds) – 3-4, 2 R, RBI, BB. He continues to be blazing hot on the year, and he’s now rocking a line of 23 R/10 HR/43 RBI while hitting a sensible .306. Sensible, I tell ya! His barrel percentage around 11% is almost double what he posted last year, and he’s also raised his launch angle and exit velocity as well. Wait a second…is someone tryin’ to become daddy’s lil’ slugger?! Ok. This got weird in a hurry.
Joey Votto (1B, Cincinnati Reds) – 3-5, R. It’s funny how I’ve seen some people paint this year as the beginning of the end for Votto. Those people are crazy and should be forced to give up any and all shares of Almighty Votto. Immediately. Though he only has 6 HR on the year, he’s still an OBP god with a mark over .400 while working with a .295 batting average. Oh, and he’s hitting over .400 across the last 7 days. Stand down, haters. He’s going to be just fine.
Tim Anderson (SS, Chicago White Sox) – 2-3, 2 2B. Wait…this guy already has 11 HR/12 SB? What?! This guy famous for bad plate discipline has actually been ownable with that .249/.311/.466 slash thus far. He’s been hot over the last week with 4 HR and slashing .360/.407/.920. So with this power-speed upside and all the makings of a breakout, why is he available in 40% of leagues right now?
Hunter Dozier (1B, Kansas City Royals) – 2-3, 2 R, HR, RBI, BB. This was Dozier’s 1st HR of the year, but give him a little break here as he’s spent a whole lot of time in AAA. This is a guy who was called up after Lucas Duda hit the DL, and you have to think he’s going to get a good look as he seems to be a possible piece of the Royals’ future plans. He’s got decent power grades and has flashed it before in the minors, so he could be worth a flier in AL-only leagues.
Edwin Encarnacion (1B/DH, Cleveland Indians) – 2-3, 2 R, HR, 2 RBI, BB. That makes it 13 EE bombs on the year. Fun fact: he’s actually posting a higher barrel percentage this year than he did in 2016 when he was in the top 15 for the entire AL. That’s a good thing! He’s also increased his launch angle, which should keep the good times rolling in Cleveland. This wraps up a great May for him where he slashed .322/.385/.621.
Josh Harrison (2B/3B, Pittsburgh Pirates) – 2-4, R, HR, RBI. Well, this is an interesting name that’s only about 2 weeks into returning from the DL. This was his first dong since coming back on May 20th, and if your league is one of the 53% where he’s not owned, I’d go make a change to get him. He could provide that power-speed combo you’ve been looking for at the middle infield spot.
Matt Kemp (OF, Los Angeles Dodgers) – 2-4, R, HR, 2B, 3 RBI. He just keeps on hitting this year, but I have to warn you all because we know that .410 BABIP coming into last night just won’t last. He’s closer to a .340 mark in his career, and his xSlash of .293/.326/.524 points to a little bit of luck as well. To play devil’s advocate to myself though, he has the trifecta of statcast right now with career-high improvements in barrel percentage, exit velocity, and launch angle. Don’t mind me. I’m just going to be over here riding this wave until it breaks.
Ian Kinsler (2B, Los Angeles Angels) – 2-3, 2B, BB. I beat the drum for Kinsler pretty hard coming into this year, and I’m getting ready to take the L here. We’ve been waiting for…oh I don’t know…a mere pulse, but we haven’t gotten one yet. He DOES have a 3-game hit streak right now, but that doesn’t erase the fact that he’s slashing .204/.276/.315 on the year after hitting .192 in May.
Leonys Martin (OF, Detroit Tigers) – 2-3, R, RBI, 2 BB, SB. This was just his second steal of the year, and it feels like the days of him stealing 20 are probably over. I mean…I feel ya, buddy. Age 30 hurts, you guys. I should know. The ol’ body doesn’t work the way it used to. Anyways, he struggled a bit in May slashing just .237/.301/.382, but he provides intriguing depth with his power-speed potential.
Mike Moustakas (3B, Kansas City Royals) – 2-5, R, HR, 2B, 4 RBI. Remind me…why did we all balk at taking Moustakas as a top 10 third baseman this year? He just continues to tear it up in Kansas City, and after his latest adventure, his line now sits at 29 R/12 HR/39 RBI/.280. Like Kemp, he’s got what I’m calling the Trifecta of Statcast (we’re capitalizing it now!) with improvements in launch angle, exit velocity, and barrel percentage.
Brandon Nimmo (OF, New York Mets) – 2-4, 2B, 2 RBI, BB. He’s been very solid over the last two weeks slashing .308/.419/.673 with 4 HR/4 SB. We don’t have a large major league track record for him just yet, but the steps forward in hard hit rate and launch angle are certainly good signs for his future power profile. He’s an intriguing option as long as he stays in the top spot for the Mets, and that lineup isn’t quite as bad as you may think it is. He’s an add for me in 12-teams or larger if you need OF depth or just want to ride out the hot streak.
Eduardo Nunez (2B/3B/OF, Boston Red Sox) – 2-4, R, HR, 2B, 2 RBI. Ok, so it hasn’t been great in Boston this year for Nunez. He’s slashing a lackluster .249/.265/.381 right now with just 4 HR/2 SB, and I’d probably leave him on the wire until he figures some of this out. Fun fact: he didn’t take a single walk in the entire month of May. See: .265 OBP. Unfortunately, the value hit rate of just 5.7% indicates he earned the mess he’s made. It will get better, but not while he’s sitting on my roster.
Jose Ramirez (2B/3B, Cleveland Indians) – 2-4, 2 R, HR, RBI, BB. I meeeeeeaaaannnn….is it ok if I say Taters Gonna Tate here? This is his 17th bomb of the year, and he needs just 12 more to tie his career-high of 29 from a year ago. He’s slashing a tremendous .300/.393/.628 on the year right now, and wait…am I reading this right….his BB/K rate is 1.29. Just for reference, most guys would kill for a rate around 0.50. The power metrics all back up this production, and so enjoy this very exciting ride if you’ve got him.
Amed Rosario (SS, New York Mets) – 2-4, 2 R, 3B, 2B. He’s been hot over the last two weeks hitting .333, and this makes 3 consecutive multi-hit games for him. He’s owned in just 8% of leagues right now, and you can probably chalk that up to his light power-speed production and spot at the bottom of the order. He can help in batting average right now, but until he moves a little higher, I’m more than likely leaving him on the wire.
Scott Schebler (OF, Cincinnati Reds) – 2-4, R, HR, 2 RBI, BB. It’s good to see him trying to finish May strong as he hit just .200 this month. He returned from injury in April and blazed his way to a .317 average, but then proceeded to struggle. The real Schebler lies somewhere in between the two months. In the month of Maypril to be exact. This was his best performance in weeks, so let’s hope it spurns the 30 HR power in that bat.
Christian Yelich (OF, Milwaukee Brewers) – 2-5, R, HR, 2 RBI. This beast is hitting .323 over the last two weeks with 4 of his 7 HR on the season coming over that time frame. That’s what you call…hot. He’s going to end May wishing it would never end, quite frankly, with a slash of .330/.387/.541 for the month. He’s also got a 10% barrel percentage at the moment, which is his highest ever since the stat was first recorded in 2015. Just top 25 OF things. You get it.