When the Kansas City Royals acquired Jorge Soler in the 2016 offseason from the Chicago Cubs for Wade Davis, they were getting a five-tool player who was yet to breakout and reach his true potential. Fast forward past two injury-riddled seasons with the Royals, where Soler played just 96 games between 2017 and 2018, and the 27-year-old looks like he’s finally reaching heights that he has always been capable of.
There’s no doubt that the Royals have been a disappointing team over the last few years, but Soler has been a bright spot in 2019. Although he’s hitting just .261, the 6-foot-4 powerhouse has hit a career-high 35 home runs this year, tied for fifth in the big leagues with Atlanta Braves phenom Ronald Acuna Jr. He’s also just three home runs shy of the franchise record for a single season set by Mike Moustakas. The most home runs that Soler hit in a single season was previously just 12.
It’s important to note that injuries have prevented him from playing a full season in past years, but even when he was with the Cubs, Soler didn’t start every day. Since he has been healthy, Soler has been in the lineup every game for manager Ned Yost, whether it’s in right field, or as a designated hitter.
Huge Second Half
Since the All-Star break, the Cuban slugger is hitting .330 with 12 home runs and 28 RBIs in 32 games. In August alone, Soler is batting .421. We’re only at the halfway mark of August, and he has already gone deep seven times in just 13 games. He has been in an absolute zone at the plate in the second half of his 2019 campaign. Soler has also been a lot more patient at the plate since the All-Star break. In the first half of the year, he sported just a 7.5 percent walk percentage. In the second half, it’s at 20.6 percent.
To put those numbers into perspective, Soler walked just 28 times in his first 91 games. In his last 32 contests, he has already drawn 28 walks with 40 games still to play. Soler has also lowered his strikeout rate a full 10 points from 28.9 to 18.4 percent. All in all, he’s waiting for good pitches to hit and taking walks, rather than chasing pitches out of the zone, a common occurrence in previous years for him.
Per Statcast, Soler is currently third in the majors with a 16.8 barrel percentage, which combines balls hit 98 mph or harder with the appropriate launch angle, usually 26 degrees or higher. His average exit velocity of 92.4 mph is also fifth in the big leagues, according to Statcast. Lastly, he has a 48.4 hard-hit percentage, meaning he’s squaring balls up on the barrel 95 mph or harder close to half of the time. That puts him sixth in the bigs, per Statcast. Based on these numbers alone, it’s clear that Soler generates a lot of power from his big build in a short, compact swing.
Soler has struggled against both off-speed and breaking pitches for most of the year, but in August, he has been smashing everything thrown at him. He’s hitting over .300 against heaters and breaking balls and a mind-blowing .600 against off-speed pitches this month.
It looks like Jorge Soler is finally settling in with the Royals at the major-league level. He always had the tools, it was just a matter of staying healthy. Now that he’s in the lineup every day, the 27-year old has been able to learn what it takes to succeed in the big leagues. He has shown great strides in the second half of the year alone and shown more plate discipline than he has in previous years.
It’s crazy to think that this will be just his first full year in the big leagues as a regular starter, but based on his impressive numbers, don’t be surprised to see him hit 30-plus home runs again in the future. If Soler can continue to wait for good pitches to hit, he could be a serious threat from a power and average standpoint, as well as a building block for the Royals.