What's Up With Jorge Soler's 1-WAR ZiPS Projection?

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What’s Up With Jorge Soler’s 1-WAR ZiPS Projection?

Chicago Cubs

soler batting mbdThe last time we saw Jorge Soler, he was mashing postseason pitching in the most meaningful games of the Cubs’ 2015 season.

He slashed to the tune of .474/.600/1.105/1.705, hitting three homers, three doubles and collecting 21 total bases on baseball’s biggest stage. He was very good in the second half, too. Many think Soler is on the verge of a breakout in 2016.

So, then, many folks were surprised to see the recently-released ZiPS projections (released on New Years Eve) have Soler as a mere 1-WAR player in 2016. Why is Soler’s figure so low, anyway?

Well, it’s really not all that unfair.

This is the second straight season in which ZiPS threw up a cautionary flag with regard to Soler’s projection. You can check out what their projections for the Cubs prior to the 2015 season here. ZiPS projected Soler for only 345 plate appearances in 2015, which isn’t too far off from the 404 he actually made.

As Carson Cistulli explained in the release of the Cubs’ 2015 projections: “That’s 1.7 WAR per 600 plate appearances — a substantial figure, that, for a player who’s recorded just a half-season’s worth of games above High-A.”

Once again in 2016, Soler isn’t projected to have a full season’s worth of plate appearances as ZiPS has him pegged for 385. And once again, Soler projected for a 1.7 WAR in a season with 600 plate appearances. That’s not terrible, and neither is his projected line (.261/.327/.455). They just aren’t particularly exciting.

It can be easy to forget how little experience Soler still has, and to forget how quickly he rose through the organization for various reasons.

Soler played in only 151 games (621 plate appearances) over three minor league seasons from 2012-14 before making his big league debut against the Reds in August 2014. He suffered through various nagging injuries the minors and missed time with a suspension, all of which cut into Soler’s development time.

And while he is the proud owner of a .303/.381/.542/.924 slash line in 637 plate appearances in the minors, that amounts to only approximately one full season of professional baseball.

Soler has the physique of a star right fielder with his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame that looks built more for the NFL than MLB. He also has a unique set of tools, highlighted by the kind of bat speed that produces eye-popping exit velocities and an arm strong enough to erase adventurous base-runners.

But because he simply doesn’t have all that much experience on the professional level, it’s understandable why a computer-generated system spits out a conservative projection.

Soler will play in his age 24 season in 2016 and has as high of a ceiling as any of his teammates going into their second full big league seasons. But he is also arguably the biggest unknown.

The postseason was a coming out party for Soler, which makes it easy to overlook that he suffered through the kind of extremes we see most rookies play in their first full season. The highs of hard hit balls and home runs, the lows of a 30 percent strikeout rate and circuitous routes to fly balls.

Soler played in only 101 regular season games and didn’t start either of the Cubs’ first two postseason contests. He didn’t get his first taste of the postseason until drawing a ninth inning walk in Game 1 of the NLDS and from that point forward, he was a monster. Soler could amount to bigger things than his projected 1.1 WAR if he can stay healthy and continue his development at the big league level.

All things considered, this makes Soler’s quest to be better in 2016 all that more interesting to follow once the season begins.

Author: Luis Medina

Luis Medina is a Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at@lcm1986.