2014 Stats (34 games): .336/.414/.521, 17 R, 10 2B, 4 HR, 23 RBI, 12.1 BB%, 11.4 K%, .407 wOBA, 1.3 WAR
And now for this year’s out-of-nowhere success story, Yangervis Solarte.
Signed by the Twins in 2005 out of Venezuela, Solarte spent the first six seasons of his professional career battling injuries while struggling to move up the organizational ladder.
2011 was Solarte’s first season playing more than 84 games at a full-season level, and, in retrospect, it isn’t a coincidence that it was also his breakout campaign. Playing in 121 games for Double-A New Britain, Solarte, 22 at the time, batted .329/.367/.466 with 46 extra-base hits (36 doubles) and a 38-24 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 497 plate appearances.
The Twins released Solarte following the season in spite of his impressive performance, and by the end of the month he was a member of the Rangers.
He spent the next two seasons at Triple-A Round Rock and continued to make strides offensively, batting .282/.332/.404 with 59 doubles, 23 home runs and 129 RBI in 233 total games. More importantly, Solarte played in at least 130 games in back-to-back seasons for the first time in his career.
Released once again following the 2013 season, the Yankees inked Solarte in January to build infield depth at the Triple-A level. However, the 26-year-old forced his way onto the Opening Day roster by batting .429 with a 1.061 OPS in 24 spring training games, and he’s yet to stop hitting.
Solarte entered Thursday leading the American League in batting average, but his 0-for-4 game against the Mets dropped him to second place behind Victor Martinez (.336). It also marked the end to his nine-game hitting streak, during which he’d batted .484 with four extra-base hits and 10 RBI.
The switch-hitter has done more damage from the left side of the plate, evidenced by his 1.039 OPS, nine extra-base hits, 15 RBI and a 7-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 70 at-bats; as a right-handed hitter, Solarte has fanned 10 times and is yet to jump the yard in 70 at-bats, but he still owns a solid .302 batting average.
It’s hard to imagine Solarte maintaining his current level of production for the entire season, but I suppose most of us said the same thing after spring training, no?
Honorable Mention: Nick Castellanos, Detroit Tigers