Yangervis Solarte hit his 15th home run of the season on Sunday, bringing him within three of his career high of 18 after just 68 games played.
After a big weekend against the Washington Nationals, Yangervis Solarte‘s individual numbers look pretty darn good. The switch-hitter is slashing .258/.312/.480 through 68 games as a Toronto Blue Jay, adjusting well to his return to the American League and a new team. Solarte played the last 3.5 season with the San Diego Padres after being traded from the Yankees in his rookie year in 2014.
After the Blue Jays acquired him, many people believed his hitting could see improvement, especially moving from the spacious Petco Park in San Diego to the hitter’s haven in Toronto at the Rogers Centre. He’s always hit a bit of pop in hit bat, especially for a versatile infield type, but he’s taking it to a new level with the Blue Jays so far this season.
His previous career high came last season with the Padres when he slugged 18 long balls in 128 games played, and his top RBI production came the year before with a total of 71. Again, not bad at all, especially for someone who often lined up at 2nd base, and had to play in one the worst power-hitting stadiums in baseball.
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There were always signs of more raw power from the 30 year old, and he’s put it on full display since putting on the Blue Jays uniform. In fact, after his home run on Sunday to make it three for the weekend against Washington, Solarte now sits with 15 home runs and 41 RBI through 68 games played. He’s been one of the more consistent performers on the team, and has only sat three times in the team’s 71 total games.
Entering the season it was hard to predict how Solarte would do on the stat sheet, mostly because he wasn’t guaranteed regular playing time. With Josh Donaldson at 3rd base, Devon Travis at 2nd, and Justin Smoak at 1st, his best three positions were already occupied by established veterans. While he’s somewhat capable of playing shortstop, it’s a bit of a stretch for him defensively, so he was brought in mostly as Donaldson/Travis insurance. It’s a good thing they did just that, as Donaldson has played just 36 games with a quarter of them being at DH, and Travis appearing in just 38 around some regularly scheduled rest, and a demotion to Buffalo to get his bat going.
As a result, Solarte has not only received regular playing time, but he’s been slotted in the heart of the lineup, and frankly, heavily relied on. You could make an argument that the Blue Jays have even come to expect more out of him than they maybe should, but his performance has warranted that expectation. His ability to switch hit has been valuable, just like his career-best .480 slugging percentage, and his very likeable personality. The camera loves his antics on bench and in the field, and it’s hard to imagine he’s anything but a positive influence in the clubhouse.
Through their recent struggles this season, the Blue Jays have been criticized a bit lately for their roster construction this past winter, especially because the expectation was that they’d be in the playoff hunt. The front office may have missed on a few moves they made, but acquiring Solarte for just Edward Olivares and Jared Carkuff was a definite win.
At his current pace, Solarte will not only pass 20 home runs in a season for the first time, but he will likely push for closer to 30. He’s also got a real shot at 100 RBI, and all for the low price of 4.125 million this season (according to spotrac.com). With a 2019 option for 5.5 million and another for 2020 at eight million, the Blue Jays did very well to identify Solarte as someone who could not only help their roster, but also improve in a new hitting environment.
When you consider that the Yankees are paying Giancarlo Stanton 25 million this season to hit .242 with 16 home runs and 37 RBI, or even that the Blue Jays are paying a combined 52 million for the production they’ve received from Troy Tulowitzki, Russell Martin, and Kendrys Morales, Solarte might be one of the better non-rookie contract bargains in baseball.