Going Deep: Let’s Just Sit Down and Talk About How Wonderful Jorge Soler Is
I’m always interested in post-hype players who figure things out long after they’ve been hyped to death. Jorge Soler is one of those players. When he came up with the Chicago Cubs, he was essentially the second-coming of Jesus Christ himself. And he showed that talent during his first handful of games with the Cubs, hitting a home run on his first at-bat and becoming the second player in Cubs history to have at least 10 RBI in his first seven games in the majors. His talent was ridiculous and he was going to be an absolute killer hitter.
And then he wasn’t. Why? Mostly because of injuries. His 2015 season saw him play 101 games, the most of his career up until this year, and he was pretty underwhelming, slashing .262/.324/.399 with 10 home runs.
After that, he couldn’t really get things going. In 2016, he played just 86 games, and while he sported a .198 ISO, that came with a .238 average.
Then, he got traded to the Kansas City Royals for Wade Davis, and spent 74 games in the minors and 35 games in the majors, again, not particularly impressive (and dealing with injuries throughout the season).
Then 2018 came, and again, an injury happened. Soler broke his foot coming out of the batter’s box and put to end what had looked like a pretty promising season.
So coming into this year, after five seasons of injuries and disappointment, the Jorge Soler hypetrain had gone the way of the Forever Train, stepping on the gas too much until it crashed and blew up.
But the Jorge Soler breakout has come, and it has been a beauty. So far this season, Soler is slashing .259/.349/.552 with 35 home runs, 69 runs, and 87 RBI, and looks locked in to surpass 40 home runs this season, barring injury. He looks healthy though, and I think that’s been a key to his success. That, and some slight changes he’s made.
Jorge Soler is a delight
If you’re wondering whether this breakout from Soler is legit, I’ve got some good news—it looks like it very much is. It doesn’t matter what metrics you look at, Soler is absolutely killing the ball this year and looks phenomenal.
Take a gander at the Statcast leaderboards and you’ll find Soler all over them. Barrel rate? He’s 12th in baseball with a 16.8% rate. Hard hit rate? He’s 27th in the league at 48.4%. Average exit velocity? You bet, there he is, tied for 14th in the league at 92.4 MPH.
Given all of that, it’s no wonder he’s launching absolute moonshots like this one:
That was 465 feet right there. And as an aside, I have to say, I love Soler’s swing. It’s a nice, simple approach, not too much moving or bouncing, a nice leg kick, and a beautifully smooth swing. That’s really pretty.
And speaking of the Statcast leaderboard, take a look at the expected stats leaderboard and guess what you’ll find? Jorge Soler. The xSLG leaderboard? He’s right there at 11th in the league at .563. How about xwOBA? There he is again, what a shock, 18th in the league with an xwOBA of .389 (and an actual wOBA of .377 … could he get better?).
So where’s all this coming from? Improvements in just about every way you could want from Soler. You can see how much of an improvement he’s made in his hard-hit rate:
And similarly in his average exit velocity:
Those improvements, along with his improved barrel rate, make his launch angle chart look like an absolute work of art:
As for batted-ball rates, those are looking great too. His groundball rate is down, and his fly ball and line drive rates are up:
How about plate discipline? Yup, that’s improved too, as he’s seen a bit of a drop in his chase rate and swing rate, which suggests he’s becoming more patient, not to mention a drop in his SwStr rate:
Why is everything working so well for Soler? I think the answer is twofold: first, I think he’s healthy for the first time in God knows how long. We’ve known the talent is there, it’s the health that hasn’t been there, and now it looks like it is.
Second, he’s clearly made some improvements to his approach. Plate discipline is looking good, he’s hitting the ball harder and at a better angle than ever before, he’s reduced his groundballs, it’s all looking great. Now, part of that may be thanks to health, but I think he’s also worked on his hitting and has finally figured things out at the plate.
So can you believe in what Soler is doing? I think you can. I’m actually kind of amazed, it feels like Soler is having one of the best breakout campaigns of the year and no one is talking about it. I’d theorize that’s because he’s on a bad team like the Royals, and breakout players on bad teams often get ignored.
But yes, I think this is legit. This is the Jorge Soler that we wanted when he came to the majors, this is the Jorge Soler we dreamed of. The power looks totally legit, he’s walking well, not striking out a ton, it’s all there and it’s all good.
He’s not going to have an incredible average, I don’t think, but a .260s average certainly isn’t going to hurt you, especially if it comes with 40+ home runs and some good RBI numbers. My colleague Matt McLaughlin predicted that Soler could have this breakout back in April, and I give him credit, because it’s happening.
Also, it’s worth mentioning that, somehow, Soler is not 100% owned. In fact, he’s available in 21% of leagues. That’s not a ton, but the guy is essentially having the season Nelson Cruz had last year, and he’s still on the waiver wire in some leagues. You need to own him, I don’t care what size your league is. This looks legit, and I’m hopeful it can carry on. The biggest key that remains to be seen is his health. If he stays healthy, he’ll be an excellent fantasy producer.
Featured Image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)