Can KC Royals DH Jorge Soler repeat the monster season he had two years ago?
Welcome back to Kings of Kauffman’s KC Royals Projections series for 2021. Between now and Opening Day, our writers are analyzing how various Royals performed last season and predicting how they might fare this year. Up today is designated hitter Jorge Soler.
This baseball season will, unlike last year’s pandemic-shortened campaign, give Jorge Soler the chance to prove his 2019 season with the KC Royals was no fluke.
Soler never lived up to the nine-year, $30 million contract the Cubs gave him when he left Cuba to play in America. But two years removed from the startling straight-up trade that made him a Royal and Wade Davis a Cub in the winter of 2016, Soler finally arrived as an impact major leaguer and enjoyed his finest season in 2019.
Defying an injury history that marked too much his first two seasons in the KC organization, Soler played every game in 2019. His 48 home runs doubled his previous single-season professional best (24 for Triple A Omaha the year before), exceeded by 10 the number he’d hit in the majors to that point, and shattered the club record of 38 Mike Moustakas set in 2017, and led the American League.
Soler also drove in 117 runs, falling just short of the 132 total RBIs he’d accumulated in his short career. His .265 average, .354 OBP and .569 slugging percentage established, and remain, Soler’s full-season career highs.
The truncated 2020 season affected different players in different ways, and Soler was no exception. His line dropped to .228/.326/.443 for 43 games (he missed most of September with a right oblique strain). He hit eight homers, the equivalent of almost 22 for a full season, but the campaign was a disappointment for the player who’d finally broken through just the year before.
Baseball Reference and FanGraphs projections for Soler’s 2021 season
Both Baseball Reference and FanGraphs predict a rebound for Soler in 2021. Neither believes he’ll hit for high average, but both foresee a lot of home runs. Baseball Reference predicts he’ll hit 24 homers, drive in 74 runs and slash .250/.341/.495; FanGraphs (Depth Charts version) projects him with 34 homers, 79 RBIs and a .246/.341/.489 line.
How will Soler actually perform for the KC Royals this coming season?
The key to a fine 2021 for Soler is avoiding injury. He’s suffered several oblique issues, hamstring problems, an ankle sprain, and a fractured toe; 2019 proved what he can do with an injury-free season.
Expect excellent results from Soler if he stays off the Injured List—a 35-40 homer season isn’t out of the question, and .250-.260 will be acceptable from a player who’ll never hit for a high average.
While occasional aches and pains are foreseeable, an injury-riddled season means Soler won’t be the player he was in 2019, and will force the Royals to shift to another DH or man the role by committee. So Soler needs to stay healthy. If he does, he’ll have a good year.
Jorge Soler may not match his 2019 numbers this season. But he can come close if he stays away from the IL.