Soler Power lead to a lot of strikeouts but some may be surprised that he is also was able to draw bases on balls at a high rate for the KC Royals.
While most of us KC Royals fans were focused on watching Jorge Soler shatter the single-season home run record, he was also taking free passes at a rate not seen on the team for many years. Soler tied Alex Gordon‘s mark of 73 walks back in 2012 and prior to that, the highest was way back in 1998 when Jose Offerman drew 89.
Soler just missed cracking the top 10 in the AL for walks tying Matt Chapman of the Oakland A’s for eleventh. That was three shy of Xander Bogaerts of the Boston Red Sox, who had 25 more at bats than Soler.
Given his propensity to mash you would assume that he drew a high number of intentional passes – but no, only three of those were issued to him. Soler’s eagle eye is a bit of a shock when you consider he led the American League with 178 whiffs. MLB.com recognized his performance by naming him in their recent AL Central best batter’s eye article.
Soler showed he had great patience in the minors with a career .382 on base percentage during his time there. The skill did not surface as easily in the majors as 211 games with the Chicago Cubs only yielded a .328 percentage.
It turned around in 2018 with Kansas City as he raised that statistic to .354 in limited action before an injury. He proved it was no fluke in 2019 as he equaled that mark while playing in all 162 games.
Pitchers only gave Soler a pitch in the strike zone 38.8% of the time in 2019 which would explain the higher walk and strikeout totals. He swung at pitches outside the zone 27.1% of the time but still had an overall contact rate of 69.9%. If the pitch was a strike and he took a hack, contact was made a very high 83.7% of the time.
As Soler progresses with more experience seeing pitches and if he can stay healthy, it is not a stretch that he could crack the KC Royals top-10 for walks in a season. He only needs to reach 84 to do that. As the team ranked 26th in base on balls in 2019 it would be nice to see his teammates further develop their batter’s eye as well.