With all the Yankees' major acquisitions this winter, it's odd to be talking about a 26-year-old who has bounced around the minor leagues since 2006 and yet, here we are because journeyman Yangervis Solarte has been on a tear since spring training began. He batted .429 and had an OBP of .489. during camp and he has not slowed down yet. Since the start of the regular season, Solarte has produced a triple slash of .458/.519/.708 in 27 plate appearances.
Obviously, 27 plate appearances is an extremely small sample size but it got me thinking about whether Solarte could maintain somewhat respectable numbers because as we all know, players don't usually maintain a .458 BA. So for this piece, I decided to take a look at his mechanics at the plate and to also look at how opposing pitchers are pitching to him so far and to see how well he's making contact.
Solarte has some solid mechanics that have helped him be successful thus far.
- He has a real strong swing, but makes a lot of contact. This puzzles me, but it's somewhat similar to how Dustin Pedroia can swing his hardest and not have a lot of whiffs.
- Solarte's swing has a great foundation. He has a balanced and normal stance. Solarte also uses a minor leg lift toward the pitcher as he loads his hands back.
- Solarte turns his hips and uses his fast hands to generate bat speed.
- His plant leg is firm in the ground creating necessary balance and he gets great extension because of this, he seems to make contact before the pitch is able to travel deep into the zone.
Solarte also has an excellent eye at the plate which is probably why he has such a high contact percentage. Fangraphs Pitchf/x data has Solarte swinging at only 26% of pitches outside the strike zone and making contact on those pitches 85% of the time. Inside the zone, Solarte swings at 60% of the pitches and makes contact 92% of the time. According to Brooks Baseball's data, Solarte has a very good eye against fastballs, an exceptionally good eye against breaking balls, and a poor eye against offspeed pitches. His whiff % against those pitches this season respectively are 0%, 8%, and 22%.
How Pitchers Are Handling Him So Far
From looking at his Zone Profiles, I've noticed a trend that pitchers are throwing middle in or high and inside to Solarte from both sides of the plate. Another zone a lot of pitches are going to is low and outside and so far this season, Solarte has been crushing those mid-high pitches for doubles, especially from the left side. He leads the Yankees with six doubles this season.
With all this being said, can Solarte manage to be a productive player moving forward? I'd say he definitely has the raw talent to do so. He has an excellent eye that can help him through periods where he's struggling. His ability to make contact and put the ball in play could provide value at the bottom of the lineup if he's able to move runners over. Being a switch hitter could also work in Solarte's favor because the Yankees could platoon him if he were to go cold from one side of the plate.
Perhaps my biggest question pertaining to Solarte is whether he'll develop into a pull hitter. I've seen some instances where he's pulled outside pitches, but still managed to hit them well enough for a hit. In the still shot above, Solarte is out in front, but manages to pull an outside pitch into right field.
In the picture below, Solarte jumps on an outside pitch, but somehow lasers a double to left field. He shows great strength and extension here.
It'll be interesting to see how Solarte performs during the next few series (against the Red Sox, Chicago Cubs and Tampa Rays) and how other teams will decide to pitch him but so far, he has been a nice addition to the Yankee lineup and hopefully he can be a be solid contributor to the offense in 2014.