Like many, the shortened 2020 season was one to forget for Kansas City’s Jorge Soler . While his power numbers were solid (eight home runs across 43 games), he hit just .228 and posted a career-high 34.5 percent strikeout rate. Yikes. The story of Soler’s 2020 season was similar to others, in that when he made contact, good things happened. Actually, really good things. Is a rebound in store for Soler, or is he too expensive to roster with the hope that the power returns? Without further ado, let’s dive in.
As mentioned earlier, his strikeout rate jumped to 34.5 percent. In the past two years, he was down around 26 percent. So, what happened? His swinging strike rate remained intact, and he actually swung out of the zone less. So, what happened? He was more particular at the plate, and his 37.9 percent swing rate was not only a career low, but it was the first time he was below 40 percent in his entire career. Furthermore, if we look specifically in the strike zone, his 58.7 percent zone swing rate was a career low, and nearly seven percentage points below his career mark.
Also, his zone contact rate dropped by over five percentage points, pushing his contact rate down to 65.7 percent (68.2% for his career). He swung less in the zone, but missed more. You can see below, courtesy of Baseball Savant, that his whiff rates in the zone were up for all types of pitches.
Starting with 2016, here are his zone whiff rates overall: 23.9%, 24.6%, 23.4%, 20.6% and 26.3%
There’s always been some swing and miss in his game, and there always will be. He’s posted a swinging strike rate of at least 12 percent every year of his career, and he’s at or above 13 percent in every season but one. However, there have been years where the strikeouts have remained somewhat reasonable. Last year was a career high, but for his career, he’s a 27.9 percent strikeout guy. I expect his 2021 mark to be closer to his career mark compared to his 2020 mark.
Now, when he didn’t strike out, he made loud contact. Despite hitting just .228, his exit velocity, hard hit rate, and barrel rate came in at the 93rd, 93rd and 99th percentile respectively. In the shortened season, we have to look at his power numbers on an AB/HR level to compare it to a full season. Well, his 18.6 AB/HR was right on par with his career mark (18.5) and in between the 2018 and 2019 season. Everything checks out there, so he should be just fine in the power department in 2021.
In the 2020 season, there were eight players who ranked in at least the 93rd percentile in barrel rate, exit velocity, and hard hit rate. Soler was obviously one of them, and only one of the eight players is going later in drafts than Soler.
Courtesy of Baseball Savant and NFBC
Aside from issues with striking out, there are two other things that hurt Soler’s fantasy value in 2021. The first of which was durability. He missed time last year and has dealt with several issues over the years. If we date back to 2015, he’s missed time due to multiple oblique issues, an ankle sprain, a hamstring strain, and a fractured toe. Soler has played in more than 100 games twice in his career, one of which being his magical 2019 season where not only he did he hit 48 home runs, but he played in all 162 games. I don’t know which feat is more impressive for Soler given his history.
The other knock on Soler is more dependent on your league rules, but if he doesn’t have outfield eligibility in your league, that knocks his value a bit. Soler started eight games in the outfield last year, so if your league requires ten, he might not have outfield eligibility. He takes away from some lineup flexibility, so it becomes even more imperative that he’s producing offensively to make it worth your while. Fortunately, he’s made some appearances in the outfield in spring training, so he should get outfield eligibility at some point in the season, but hopefully it’s sooner rather than later.
In 15-team leagues, Soler is going to cost you a tenth round pick most likely. If you believe in the power, and that he can stay durable, you’re going to love the value. If you’re worried about the durability and that the strikeout rate is going to remain elevated, you’re probably going to pass. Personally, I’m a fan of Soler and am actively targeting him in drafts. Soler has the ability to lead the league in home runs, and if he stays healthy, he’ll be able to get in a rhythm and be just fine. He should have plenty of run producing opportunities as well, so the counting stats should be nice. I like the value in the tenth round, as well as his upside in the power department.