Well, if there’s one thing I get truly wrong, and of course it was only one thing dear reader, it was Georgie Sunshine. Before the season I said he would win rookie of the year instead of Bryant, and that would be the big surprise. I was allured by his performance in the last month of 2014, or maybe just that one homer in St. Louis that offset the Earth’s rotation for a few seconds. Not sure which. But it sure looked like Soler had all the tools to simply fustigate the NL for the next decade. There were flashes, and once again they came against St. Louis which is certainly ultra fucking satisfying. But overall, it just never popped for Soler. And now there’s a big question about whether his future even is on the Northside.
Jorge Soler’s 2015
404 PA/10 HR/47 RBI/7.9 BB%/30.0 K%/.137 ISO/.361 BABIP/.262 AVG/.324 OBP/.399 SLG/.312 wOBA/96 wRC+/0.1 WAR
It’s still hard to get over that 0.1 WAR mark. Yes, his defense was that bad and that certainly didn’t help matters. But we probably wouldn’t have complained about the defense as much if he was hitting the way we thought he would. Soler had half the homers in 2014 that he did in 2015 a quarter of the plate appearances. A lack of power was certainly not something anyone saw coming, considering his brief splash went in the majors and the way he’s hit in brief appearances in the minors.
And much like Addison Russell, perhaps that’s the rub. When Soler was the Opening Day right fielder last year, he only had 137 minor league games behind him, as well as 34 in rookie league and instructional league after signing in 2012. There wasn’t a lot of backing to all those tools yet. Perhaps (meaning certainly) the expectations were simply too high for a player with so little experience.
That doesn’t mean there weren’t signs. Soler’s 27.4% line-drive rate would have been fourth in all of baseball had he enough ABs to qualify. The names ahead of him are Brandon Belt and Matt Carpenter, who are certainly really good hitters. But the ones directly surrounding him are Ryan Howard, who is most certainly not, and Curtis Granderson who is but a little more boom-or-bust. We’d certainly take Granderson’s numbers for Soler, though.
As the season went on, Soler did find his walk-tendencies again, being over 11% in August in September, though September saw him not do much else. Again, I’d want to chalk that up to fatigue, playing even just the 101 games that he did when he hadn’t played more than 70 in a season before. Of course, the straws I’m grasping at may be getting awfully stretched.
So where does that leave Soler now? Scrambling for ABs, it would seem. We know that Soler is going to play against lefties, but it wasn’t like he crushed lefties last year. He hit .240 against them last year while hitting .268 against righties. He walked a whole lot more against lefties, which is encouraging, but he hit for more power against righties. He’s also going to have to play a new position to get more plate appearances, in left field. We’ll see how that goes.
Soler was attacked pretty consistently below the zone with offspeed and breaking pitches, which he whiffed at nearly 40% of the time over the season. Encouragingly, when August hit from then on he dropped his whiff rate in those zones 10-15% so we could argue he was learning. Same with his swing rate in those areas.
The concern is that with limited playing time, Soler is going to press and try to make too much happen and start chasing again. That’s going to lead to where we were in the middle of last year, which wasn’t a place we took pictures of. He’s going to see a whole lot of soft stuff until he proves he can wait back on it and drive the other way. In Mesa he’s looked a little pull-happy, which has led to some pretty unimpressive numbers. I don’t put much into those, but for someone who’s trying to force his way into the lineup.
We know all the talent is there to cause the tectonic plates to shift. It’s just a wonder if we’ll see it. Or if we’ll see it here.
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