When the Padres traded Chase Headley to the Yankees in July of 2014, many viewed the trade as a “dump” for them. Headley’s time in San Diego had passed and both sides needed to go in a different direction.
In return for Headley, the Padres acquired Yangervis Solarte and Rafael De Paula. At the time, analysts viewed Solarte as an “old” rookie and De Paula as the main piece, with him being the fifteenth ranked prospect in the Yankees system.
Remember, this trade was made after the Padres had fired Josh Byrnes. In all honesty, the tandem of the three Padres “general managers” (A.J. Hinch, Omar Minaya, and Fred Uhlman) probably did not expect the trade’s return to have that much value. De Paula was viewed as a potential bullpen arm while Solarte was just an “add-on.”
Despite being overlooked at the time of the deal, Solarte pleasantly surprised the Padres front office and fans alike after the trade, showing his versatility in the field while also slashing a .267/.336/.355 line. On top of all of that, he registered a 1.6 WAR in the second half of the season.
Going into 2015, Solarte entered the season overlooked once again, as many expected third baseman Will Middlebrooks to have a bounce back season and help the Padres compete for an NL West title. Well, as we all know, that did not happen. Middlebrooks fought injuries and was sent down to the minor leagues in July, and was never called up again.
Yangervis pounced on the opportunity for playing time, and was one of the lone bright spots on last year’s team. Solarte found some power that he had not found before, hitting 14 HR with 63 RBI while also slashing a .270/.320/.428 line. Solarte was versatile; playing 1B, 2B, and 3B while also providing durability to a team that frankly did not have much of it.
As this year’s offseason has developed, the moves made make it quite clear that Yangervis Solarte is the favorite to be the starter at third base. The Padres would love for Solarte to have a year similar to 2015, perhaps one even better. Being at a consistent position and being in the lineup everyday may really help Solarte at the plate; at least people would like to think. Do the numbers support that optimistic position? I think they do.
The numbers appear to be trending upwards for the 28-year-old from Venezuela. In a few key categories, Solarte thrived last year and had the best numbers of his career. First off, Yangervis registered a 109 wRC+, compared to an 103 wRC+ in 2014. Solarte’s K% was cut down from 10.8% to 9.8% in 2015. In 2014, he struck out 58 times in 469 at bats. In 2015, he struck out 56 times in 526 at bats.
Solarte’s ISO and slugging percentage also improved tremendously, and despite this, his average did not suffer. These are really encouraging signs. Even Solarte’s BABIP improved from .274 to .279, and that BABIP should further improve if his contact rates remain similar. On top of all of this, in the second half of last year, Solarte hit an impressive .292 with an .801 OPS.
On the defensive side, Solarte is solid but not flashy. Statistically, third base is his best defensive position. He registered a -0.3 UZR in about 750 innings at third last year. Although that is not necessarily great, it is not horrible either. That UZR is still better than Matt Carpenter, Brett Lawrie, Luis Valbuena, Yunel Escobar, and Maikel Franco. It is an improvement from his 2014, when he had a -0.7 UZR. Solarte also cut his errors in half and had a much higher fielding percentage in 2015. With a full spring to focus mostly on his defense at 3rd base, Solarte’s numbers should stay the same or improve a little bit. His defense should not be a glaring problem.
I am a huge Yangervis Solarte fan. For a rebuilding team that most likely will not sniff contention in 2016, Solarte fits in just fine at third base. His passion and love for the game will continue to be a welcome sight for Padres fans. With Alexei Ramirez stepping in at shortstop, the Padres have a solid left side of the infield that should produce solid numbers as well as provide durability. Solarte has a chance this season to prove to the Padres that he can be an everyday 3B going forward. He is once again being overlooked going into 2016, as he looks to shine and once again prove doubters wrong.