After a hot start in Tampa this March, I was one of Yangervis Solarte‘s biggest doubters. A career minor leaguer rarely starts hitting major league pitching out of no where, and the small sample size of spring training wasn’t enough to disprove over 2,800 plate appearances in the minor leagues. But the infielder kept hitting, and by the second week of the regular season, I stopped doubting him and enjoyed the show. Solarte showcased bat speed, contact, an eye at the plate, and he was extremely versatile with his ability to switch-hit and play nearly anywhere on the infield.
None of this has changed. Solarte still has the same ability he did in April, but my fear was that we’d quickly learn something about Solarte that would finally expose a weakness. Either that didn’t happen or he made adjustments quicker than it could catch up to his statistics, because Solarte kept up his hot bat for two and half months between March, April, and mid-May. Up until May 14th, he owned a .336/.414/.521 slash.
Since then, over the last two weeks and 50 plate appearances, Solarte is just 7 for his last 46 at bats. He’s batting .152/.204/.217, which brings his overall OPS down from .935 to .796. While the results have been less than optimal, Solarte hasn’t looked exposed like I expected. Over his last 50 plate appearances, he has only struck out 5 times and walked 3 times. He’s still showing off his bat speed and his ability to make contact, though his plate discipline has taken a minor step back.
So the question is whether this is bad luck in small sample size or is Solarte finally exposed? I believe it’s a combination of both, as Solarte’s batting average on hits prior to his .935 OPS was too high on fly balls and ground balls. His current .296 BABIP is much more realistic than the mid-.300′s he owned two weeks ago. His batting average on ground balls has dropped to .212, his batting average on fly balls to .260, and average on line drives to .704. His performance over the last two weeks can be viewed as unlucky, but it’s truly just regression to standard batting averages on batted balls. At the moment, Solarte’s slash is .285/.360/.436, which is far from his season high, but also a number that has no hint of luck.
But it also looks like pitchers are starting to use different strategies against him. As I mentioned, Solarte hasn’t shown an increase in whiffs lately, but his batting average has still taken a steep decline. Perhaps his weak contact has been a result of a hole in his swing. One new trend seems to be pitching him inside as a right-handed batter.
There isn’t as much of a trend from the left-side, though he’s certainly not being pitched in. Solarte is seeing a ton of changeups, as is to be expected when you’re a switch-hitter, but he’s also been very bad against the pitch this season.
So there are some new trends here, but nothing too significant. Considering that his contact rates have maintained, It does look like his latest two weeks of poor numbers is just regression to a normal slash.
I’m still extremely impressed with him, and his current 121 wRC+ is still far more than I expected, but when he’s batting right-handed, I’d like to keep an eye on how poor his contact is on pitches inside, and from the left-side, how he handles the changeup away. While pitchers could be on to something, it’s much more likely that his ground balls will start to find holes soon enough.