Batting Second: Donovan Solano, second base
I have argued that signing Marcus Semien or perhaps targeting Korean shortstop Ha-Seong Kim should be an option for the Giants this offseason, but it’s hard to argue either one will be a more productive hitter in 2021 than Donovan Solano, who just won a Silver Slugger. Granted, there still may be an argument to target Semien or Kim, especially if Giants brass think they could be the shortstop of the future, but that’s separate from making the team’s perfect lineup next season.
After beginning his career as a soft-hitting, defensive-minded shortstop, Solano has reemerged as a complete hitter since joining the Giants last season. Nicknamed “Donnie Barrels” for his ability to always square up opposing pitchers, Solano has hit .328/.363/.459 over the past two years.
There are some red flags that have led some to project Solano to regress. In 2019, his batting average on balls in play (BABIP) was .409 and in 2020 it was nearly .400 once again at .396. An average big-league BABIP tends to be around .300 and few can sustain a BABIP above .330. However, Solano has an obvious knack for hitting and seems like a guy who could consistently post high averages.
His BABIP will regress towards the norm, but that does not mean he cannot be a productive hitter. Baseball Savant’s expected batting average (xBA) and slugging percentage (xSLG), which uses batted-ball data to estimate a player’s performance, regarded Solano as a solid hitter in 2020 (.281 xBA and .419 xSLG). Furthermore, his 2019 expected numbers (.326 xBA and .463 xSLG) were almost identical to his actual numbers even with a BABIP north of .400. While few can sustain it, he has the line-drive approach necessary to be successful.