Exit Interviews – Jorge Soler
G PA HR R RBI SB BB% K% ISO BABIP
101 404 10 39 47 3 7.9 % 30.0 % .137 .361
AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ BsR Off Def WAR
.262 .324 .399 .312 96 1.4 -0.6 -11.4 0.1
There probably isn’t any Cub who had a weirder year than Jorge Soler. Arrieta’s season was weird in that it was so galactically good, but Soler’s was weird for the sake of being weird. The only thing he did that we could have sort of expected was he got hurt. He did it in both of his seasons in the minors, so missing time at the majors was probably expected.
Beyond that? Just about nothing went to plan.
It’s hard to know where to even start. We knew that Soler would hit the ball really hard. Ok, he did that, to the tune of a 27.1% line-drive rate and one of the league’s highest exit velocities. His line-drive rate would have been third in MLB if he had enough ABs. So the .361 BABIP, while looking outlandish, probably isn’t that outlandish. Soler is going to be a high BABIP guy, because fielders don’t always catch something that very well may leave them an amputee. That’s all well and good.
But it goes haywire from there. Solar didn’t hit for any power, because he didn’t really hit any fly balls. His FB% was below 30%. So he was either hitting screamers or whiffing. Now, I doubt there’s anyone on the planet who thinks 10 homers per season is going to be the norm for Soler, even if he plays 100 games per year as he did this season. This is the same guy who hit half that in just 24 games in 2014.
Soler didn’t walk as he had in the minors, though the problem with Soler is that everything we have in the minors is limited because of two injury-riddle seasons. But Soler’s walk-rate at Double-A and Triple-A was always over 13%, and it cratered to 7.9% in the majors. That’s not abnormal, seeing that type of stuff for the first time, and you’d have to think there’s a good chance he can balloon that up.
But the lack of walks and the lack of homers meant that Soler just wasn’t much of an offensive force, ending at just negative in Off War and being a 0.1 WAR player overall. What didn’t help was that his defense was simply awful, as any fly that wasn’t hit right at him ended in him taking a Seussical route to it. Sure, he had the arm, but the arm didn’t offset the balls he wasn’t getting to. That wasn’t something we were expecting. But it’s also something that can improve with work.
Still, and because I’m totally biased as I’m a huge Soler fan, you can’t help but look at his work in August, September, and certainly October where he was just about the only Cubs hitter to not shrink from the stage, along with Schwarber. In this two and a half months Soler’s walk-rate was 11%. He dropped his K-rate, though it was still high. He slugged over .600 in September and October. His OPS is .916 in September. Obviously, this isn’t anything he didn’t do in 2014 and that led to an underwhelming 2015. So I can’t assume that a power close to ’15 is going to lead to the monster we expect in ’16.
Sadly, this won’t save Soler from the trade rumors that have already started. The big one seems to be to Cleveland for one of their young starters in Carrasco or another. It’s awfully itchy trying to project Soler while he still only has 180 games the past two years at three different levels. The strikeouts are a worry as they are all over the lineup. This would be one way to lose some of that depending on what comes in to replace it.
Still, he’ll be 24 in February. He hits the ball really hard, and he’ll probably hit it really hard more often as he goes along. It’s no secret what the bubaboos are. Soler swung and missed at a lot of sliders and curves low and away, with rates over 75% whiffs-per-swing around there. And he swung at half of the ones he saw. Solar didn’t actually have the problems with the high fastballs that Bryant did, so he only has to eliminate that from his approach. That’s possible.
Still, the thought of Soler putting it all together somewhere else… makes me itchy.