Post-Hype Sleeper: Could 2019 Be The Year Jorge Soler Finally Emerges?

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by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

When is it time to give up on the hype and move on from a player?  When does the disappointment overshadow the potential?  That’s what fantasy owners are wrestling with when it comes to Jorge Soler, who has consistently been viewed as an upside play but has fallen far short of the expectations.  Last season was no different, and while the disappointment came due to injury that doesn’t change the narrative:

223 At Bats
.265 Batting Average (59 Hits)
9 Home Runs
28 RBI
27 Runs
3 Stolen Bases
.354 On Base Percentage
.466 Slugging Percentage
.340 Batting Average on Balls in Play

If he had stayed healthy for 500+ AB he was on pace to hit over 20 HR and continued to show an ability to routinely get on base.  That said can we expect him to maintain that type of BABIP?  While a career best 42.9% Hard% is intriguing, there are a few things that are working against him:

  1. Potential for a rising strikeout rate (which we will get to shortly)
  2. Being prone to the shift (19.9% Oppo% in ’18, 21.8% for his career)
  3. Popup struggles (13.2% in ’18, 12.9% for his career)

His strikeout rate surprisingly was down to 26.8% in ’18, though a 15.4% SwStr% tells a different story.  Opposing pitchers threw him fastballs just 49.28% of the time, as he continually struggled to make contact against both breaking balls (21.84% Whiff%) and offspeed pitches (20.55%).  He had shown growth in both of those in ’17 (16.78% and 12.70%, respectively), so while there is hope it’s hardly a guarantee he improves.

All of that comes together for an average likely in the .240-.250 range, and that hurts his value.  That said if you play in an OBP league his ability to draw a walk (walk rates of 10.9% or better each of the past three seasons) brings potential.

There’s no questioning the power, with his 9 HR coming courtesy of a 17.0% HR/FB.  Assuming the fly ball rate rebounds (34.0% in ’18, but 43.3% or higher the previous two seasons) there could easily be a 25 HR season in his future.  Hitting in the middle of the lineup that could lead to runs scored and RBI, with 65+ in both categories.

Those may not be sexy numbers, but in an OBP format how would a .335 OBP with 24 HR and 70 RBI play as your last outfielder or a player on your bench?  Considering the cost, if he struggles and falters it’s also easy to cut bait and move on to the next high upside play.  The reward outweighs the risk, making Soler a solid late round target in all formats.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

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