*going through the rolodex in my brain* Ah, yes, that was a good time in the summer of ’99…Oh my, that’s where I left my keys in December of 2012…Oh, shoot, the finale to Breaking Bad–Eek, don’t want to revisit that, I might rewatch it at some point. So, that was me going down Memory Lane trying to remember if I had written a Nick Solak sleeper post last year. Turns out I hadn’t, and should’ve just googled it, rather than wracking my brain. I wrote a rookie outlook post for him last year, but no sleeper, because, well, he was a rookie going into this year. Here’s what I said back then, “In 2019 through two teams’ Triple-A affiliates and a brief call-up with the Rangers, Nick Solak’s numbers were 32 homers — take the R out of boring, because that is boing! — seven steals — you’re my daddy now! — and a .280-ish average (I say “ish” because I only do straight addition, and didn’t feel like figuring out his batting average). If this was merely a one-time breakout season from Solak, I’d still pay attention, but this is who he’s been now for his career. He also carries a 11+% walk rate and a manageable 20% K-rate. With 12 steals (seems impossible but who knows), and 25+ homers (might be more impossible, but, again, who knows) and those batted ball profile rates, Solak could squirm his way into a 27/14/.285 season and become the Rangers two-hole hitter. That’s de facto value! Narrator: Grey thought the best kind of value was de facto value. What I’m slightly surprised about, and which, honestly, has me a little troubled is why no one is talking about him?” And that’s me quoting me! One tiny thing has changed (besides literally all the huge things that have changed due to the pandemic), Solak is no longer a rookie. One thing hasn’t changed, no one is talking about him still. So, what can we expect from Nick Solak for 2021 fantasy baseball and what makes him a sleeper?
Know what I really love about Nick Solak? The 50 grade power and 50 grade speed. Give me all those 20/20 guys, put them in my lap and let me tell them lies. Nah’mean? So, last year was a throwaway year (for everyone), but we can gleam one or maybe three things from it for Solak. He stole seven bags and was caught once. He’s in the 91st percentile for Sprint Speed, and he’s about as fast as 15+ steal guys like Scott Kingery, Amed Rosario and Dansby Swanson. Ya know, give or take. Not saying they all had 15 steals last year, but they have the speed for it (in theory). With the Rangers going nowhere fast, Solak could be going somewhere fast. From 1st to 2nd, and maybe onto 3rd. For steals. He has them. Clear? Good.
Nick Solak’s power (two homers last year in 209 ABs) was all but nonexistent, but that looks like a flaw in the system vs. his problem. His Launch Angle (9.4) was up from the previous year, and so was his hard hit percentage. His Soft Contact% was so low, it was about the same as Trevor Story and Michael Conforto. Solak’s SLG was .344, but his xSLG was .391. Not gonna lie to you (unlike all those other times I did lie to you), Solak didn’t make all great contact last year. Few too many ground balls; the balls he did hit hard weren’t “Top Gun tower fly-bys” that could go out anywhere. Oh, speaking of anywhere, he doesn’t play there, he plays somewhere specific, which happens to be in the heart of Texas, and where the water bugs are giant and the deep flies disappear. He doesn’t strike out a ton (18%) and hit .268 last year, and his xBA was around there too.
Last year, prior to the shutdown, I projected him for 77/22/64/.268/9 in 523 ABs, and now that I’ve seen how the new park plays, and how I can’t find where the fence is…Is there a cemetery for fly balls out in center? A centermetery? I wouldn’t expect as much power, but the speed is better, the average is spot on, and I can’t see any way he doesn’t get the at-bats. The Rangers have already said he’s their 2nd baseman. For 2021, I’ll give Nick Solak projections of 82/18/65/.266/16 in 533 ABs with a chance for more.