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Who’s Hot and Who’s Not

Soler and Santana are killin’ it

Kansas City Royals designated hitter Jorge Soler (12) rounds the bases after hitting a home run against the Tampa Bay Rays during the fourth inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff
Kansas City Royals designated hitter Jorge Soler (12) rounds the bases after hitting a home run against the Tampa Bay Rays during the fourth inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Now that we’re 20 games into the season, stat lines have stabilized somewhat. While an extremely good or poor game can still affect a player’s hitting line—sometimes by a lot, especially if they hit a couple dingers in the same game—we’re a little past the point where most performances are going to radically alter a player’s season statistics. It will grow harder and harder for that to happen as players accrue more plate appearances.

As such, it can be somewhat difficult to determine which players in the lineup are doing well—and which ones aren’t. Therefore, I’m kicking off a new weekly column here: who’s hot and who’s not. I’ll sort players into three categories: hot, meh, and not, taking a look at the previous 10 days and including all players with at least 25 plate appearances. And for every week in the “hot” category, each player will get a point, and at the end of the year I’ll dub someone as the hottest performer of the year. Maybe I’ll call it something else then to get around the obvious connotations. Maybe I won’t, for chaos’ sake. We’ll see!

Anyway, in this first edition, we’ll be looking at the previous 10 days, from Friday, April 16 through Sunday, April 25.

Who’s Hot

Carlos Santana

  • .323./447/.613
  • 194 wRC+
  • 0.5 WAR

Jorge Soler

  • .259/.364/.519
  • 146 wRC+
  • 0.2 WAR

Nicky Lopez

  • .286/.348/.381
  • 110 wRC+
  • 0.1 WAR

Jorge Soler has always been a streaky hitter, from year-to-year and from game-to-game. In 2017, he put up a wRC+ of 32 over 110 plate appearances; two years later, he put up a 136 wRC+ over 679 PAs. Similarly, just this year, Soler has already had 14-game stretch where he hit .133/.216/.178 with no homers and a strikeout rate of 44%. But in his past 10 games, Soler has looked a lot like the Good Soler that we all know and love.

Of course, Soler has been outgunned by Carlos Santana, who has swatted home runs, hit for average, and showcased his trademark elite plate discipline. Over this stretch, he’s walked 18.4% of the time against a strikeout rate of only 7.9%. And speaking of walking more than striking out, Nicky Lopez has walked at an 8% clip and only struck out at a 4% clip over this stretch, a nearly impossible feat in an era where the average player strikes out in one out of every four plate appearances.

Who’s Meh

Michael A. Taylor

  • .280/.379/.280
  • 99 wRC+
  • 0.3 WAR

A lot of boom and bust recently for the Royals, but Taylor has been mostly, well, meh so far. He’s been on base a decent amount, thanks to some walks, but doesn’t have a single extra base hit in this time. He hasn’t hurt the team, though, and his defense is always welcome.

Who’s Not

Andrew Benintendi

  • .222/.276/.370
  • 83 wRC+
  • 0.0 WAR

Salvador Perez

  • .179/.200/.359
  • 52 wRC+
  • -0.1 WAR

Whit Merrifield

  • .189/.250/.243
  • 42 wRC+
  • 0.0 WAR

Hunter Dozier

  • .100/.156/.300
  • 24 wRC+
  • -0.2 WAR

Hunter Dozier’s struggles have been rather well documented. He has assuredly been getting unlucky, as his only hits as of late have been ones that have left the yard—he’s not striking out a huge amount, and his BABIP is .150, which will come up. And despite Benintendi’s home run, he has been mostly underwhelming so far this season. He hasn’t had a good stretch at the plate, and his numbers show it.

The surprising players in this category are Salvador Perez and Whit Merrifield. Merifield was definitely hot to start the year, but he’s been pretty cold for a while, with little power and little OBP to show. Perez, meanwhile, is hitting for power, but his average and OBP are extremely poor, and he’s striking out at a career high rate this year.

One would expect Dozier, Perez, and Merrifield to rebound due to their track records. Benintendi is the wild card, but hey, it’s a long season. Slumps happen, even at the beginning.

Hot Leaders

  • Carlos Santana (1)
  • Jorge Soler (1)
  • Nicky Lopez (1)