Donovan Solano was one of the biggest surprises of 2019, but regression is coming in his second season with the San Francisco Giants.
After making good on a minor league contract and carving out a regular role in the San Francisco Giants infield, it will be interesting to see if Donovan Solano can continue producing at a high level next year.
In 2019, he hit .330/.360/.456 with four home runs and 23 RBI in 228 plate appearances.
Few expected him to even play his way onto the MLB roster, let along produce at that level, and now he appears to claimed the utility infield role heading into 2020.
The problem is, there is seemingly nowhere for him to go but down.
The 31-year-old was a career .257/.306/.331 hitter over 1,168 plate appearances in the majors prior to last season, and he had not seen any big league action since 2016.
A look below the surface of his .330 average reveals some troubling peripheral numbers.
His .409 batting average on balls (BABIP) is a huge red flag.
The league average BABIP generally hovers around .300 each season, with high exit velocity sluggers and speedsters who can leg out infield singles capable of carrying a slightly higher mark.
Solano is neither of those things.
To put his .409 BABIP into perspective, among the 360 players who tallied at least 200 plate appearances last season, only Fernando Tatis Jr. (.410) registered a higher BABIP.
That either means Solano suddenly became a wizard when it comes to bat control, or he ran into an awful lot of good luck.
So if he did get lucky, what can reasonably be expected of him in 2020?
Despite the red flags, Baseball Reference project a .288/.337/.444 line with nine home runs and 35 RBI next season. I would take that in a heartbeat.
That said, those numbers are probably a little too generous, and I think an average closer to .250 will be forthcoming when he crashes back to earth.
If he plays well out of the gates, it’s not out of the question to think that he could push his way into a platoon role with Brandon Crawford at shortstop or a timeshare with Mauricio Dubon at second base.
The numbers suggest regression is coming, it’s just a question of how much regression.
He’s still capable of being a solid bench player, even if he does take a step back, but the San Francisco Giants would be wise not to fool themselves into thinking he can duplicate last year’s success.