Jorge Soler’s potential has never been questioned. His hustle has, his mindset has, but never his potential. This was enough for the Royals to pull the trigger and trade closer Wade Davis for him ahead of the 2017 season. Looking back on Soler’s campaign, it’s safe to say the Cubs won round one of the trade. After an offseason full of changes and optimism, can Soler put it all together in 2018?
If you haven’t read my Kings of Kauffman season preview for Whit Merrifield, I highly recommend it. Each article will have a link to a previous season preview in the first main body paragraph: just click on the player’s name. Whit will be looking to build on a fantastic 2017 season, unlike Jorge Soler. Soler will be looking to forget what was a disastrous season in the major leagues. Acquired from the Chicago Cubs in exchange for closer Wade Davis in December of 2016, many expected Soler to be the future of the Royals’ outfield. It would be an understatement to say Soler was bad at the major-league level in 2017.
What did he offer last season?
Soler was never able to get off to a good start in 2017. He was the Royals’ worst hitter in Spring Training, batting just .143 in 19 games. An oblique strain caused him to miss nearly a month of baseball after that. Spending 18 games with the Royals in May, Soler’s batting average was a frighteningly-low .164. In 35 total MLB games last season, Soler batted .144 with a pair of home runs and six RBIs. He also struck out in a whopping 32.7% of his plate appearances. It was known that Soler wasn’t one to hit for a high average, but anything below .200 warrants being sent down to the minor leagues. That’s exactly where Soler spent a lot of his 2017 season.
Soler’s numbers were quite a bit better at AAA Omaha. In 74 games there, Soler hit for a slash line of .267/.388/.564. He also added 24 home runs and 59 RBIs. Soler flashed a lot of potential in AAA; hitting for a respectable average, walking plenty and hitting quite a few of balls out of the park. Overall, 2017 was a disaster for Soler, but his performance in the minors left a glimmer of hope for this upcoming season.
What can we expect in 2018?
Steamer projects something resembling a decent season for Soler in 2018:
- 129 games played
- .242/.331/.436 slash line (BA, OBP, SLG)
- 21 HR
- 64 RBI
- 28.7% strikeout rate
These projections are plausible. If you haven’t read it already, I recommend this piece about Soler’s offseason development and the changes he’s made in order to turn his career around. He cut 20 pounds, changed his diet, altered his approach at the plate and drastically improved his outlook on the game of baseball. Keep in mind, Soler will be only 26 years old on opening day. His story isn’t your typical “I want to resurrect my career and I’m capable of doing so” story. In Soler’s case, there’s plenty of time left for him to do so.
I’m a believer. If Soler can perform and stay healthy, I think he’ll spend more than 129 games either at DH or in the outfield. I’m going to also take slightly over on BA, OBP, and SLG. The strikeout rate should be a tick below 28.7% if Soler truly has worked on his plate discipline. Experience should also help with that. Although I think he’s completely capable of hitting 25+ home runs in a season, I’m taking a couple under 21 in 2018. I’ll take the over on RBIs. My hope is Soler becomes a well-rounded hitter this season, then taps into his immense power potential in 2019. I’d take some extra home runs if he destroys my projections, though (which I hope he does).
Many gave up on Soler last season. Many never believed in him to begin with. He did enough last year in the minor leagues to make me believe in him. Will he become a star this season? No. Will he become a good player? I doubt it. Could he contribute 20 home runs and bat .250-.260? It’s not definite, but certainly possible nonetheless. All players have to start somewhere – let’s hope this is the start of a good major-league career for the Cuban outfielder.
What do you think, Royals fans? Is this the year Jorge Soler puts everything together? Will he ever do so? Destined for another year in AAA? Let us know what you have to say!