KC Royals: From slump to 2021 World Series hero

(Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
(Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images) /

Things weren’t looking all that well for Jorge Soler when he was with the KC Royals this season.

After his fantastic 2019 when he belted 48 home runs to break Mike Moustakas’ single-season club record, Soler spiraled downward. Although the short 2020 campaign didn’t provide much room to judge his performance, he slashed only .228/.326/.443 slash with eight home runs and 24 RBIs, and a right oblique strain he suffered caused him to miss much of September.

The beginning of 2021 was worse, however.

After starting hot on Opening Day with two hits, two walks, two RBIs, and a home run to contribute to a 14-10 victory over the Rangers, Soler had a significant drop-off in production. He hit just .205 in April, and really fell flat in May when he plunged to a .154 average with two home runs for the month. June wasn’t much better—Soler notched a .205 average for the month with two home runs.

By the All-Star Break, Soler was at his lowest point, slashing a mere .186/.279/.320 with only seven homers and 30 RBIs. Needless to say, this wasn’t the same Soler the KC Royals had two years before. However, there were still signs of life in his bat; Soler managed a brief spurt at the plate, hitting six post-Break home runs and driving in seven runs before the Royals traded him to the Atlanta Braves minutes before the trade deadline was up.

After the KC Royals traded him, Jorge Soler went on a white hot burst.

That brief spurt to conclude his Kansas City tenure stretched into a long one as Soler quickly found solid footing with his new club. And steadily, Soler’s average began to rise.

His overall 2021 .223/.316/.432 slash with a .749 OPS may not appear to be much, but digging a bit deeper reveals just how much a change of scenery managed to wake up Soler’s bat. He slashed .269/.358/.524 with an .882 OPS, 14 home runs and 33 RBIs in 55 games for the Braves.

Not many people could have expected Soler’s sudden breakout, except maybe the Braves and Soler’s former Kansas City teammate Whit Merrifield, who told Royals mlb.com writer Anne Rogers after the trade:

"“He’s just an incredible teammate. Obviously, he’s got stupid power. It’s unfortunate he hit a little snag this year, because he’s such a great hitter and he’s got such crazy power that he’s gonna make [Atlanta’s] team a lot better when he goes over there.”"

Merrifield’s words were truly prophetic of what would occur during Atlanta’s postseason run.

Soler continued his hot streak into the postseason with his new club.

Although he tapered off a bit in the National League Division Series against the Brewers and battled COVID during the NLCS, Soler was back on track in the World Series against Houston.

In the six-game Series, Soler slashed .300/.391/.800 with a 1.191 OPS. He had six RBIs and three home runs, all of which coming at critical moments.

Hitting leadoff for the Braves in the Series opener, Soler hit a home run, something that had never happened before.

The second crucial moment came in Game 4, when Soler hit a pinch-hit home run following Dansby Swanson’s homer to give Atlanta a 3-2 lead they never lost, and a 3-1 overall Series lead. Then came his monster smash in Game 6, which gave the Braves a 3-0 lead to propel them to a 7-0 shutout to clinch their first World Series title since 1995.

His heroics earned the former KC Royals player the World Series MVP award.

Hitting those three critical home runs made Soler the easy choice for 2021 World Series MVP. He joined Steve Pearce of the 2018 Red Sox and Donn Clendenon of the 1969 Mets as the third midseason acquisition in major league history to be named World Series MVP (Twitter link). 

Soler certainly deserves to win the MVP. And although things didn’t go so well for him in Kansas City this year, Royals fans should be proud to see Soler turn things around and help Atlanta win the Fall Classic.

Next. Grading the 2021 KC outfielders. dark

After a disappointing start to the 2021 season with the KC Royals, Jorge Soler helped the Atlanta Braves to a World Series title.