Seven years after leaving Cuba for a $30MM guarantee with the Cubs, former star prospect Jorge Soler is enjoying his best major league season yet. Now a member of the Royals, Soler has smashed seven home runs in nine games this month, giving him 35 on the season. Soler, the owner of an overall .259/.344/.555 line in 498 plate appearances, spoke about his 2019 success Sunday, saying (via Jeffrey Flanagan of MLB.com): “The only thing I have thought about was I was traded for a big-time pitcher and I wanted to live up to those expectations. I didn’t do it at the beginning. But I want to thank the organization for believing in me, for trading for me with and giving up that caliber of a player [in Davis]. There’s a weight off my shoulders now because I’ve finally lived up to those expectations.”
Then-standout closer Wade Davis was the “big-time pitcher” the Royals traded to the Cubs for Soler in a December 2016 swap. Soler then endured a miserable first year with the Royals, who kept him in the minors most of the season, but has logged quality offensive production since. Consequently, as Flanagan notes, the 27-year-old is sure to opt into arbitration after the season. Doing so will enable Soler to collect a raise over the $4MM salary he’s currently slated to earn in 2020. That’ll be the ninth and final season of his contract.
More from the AL Central…
- There’s still no timetable for the return of Tigers right-hander Tyson Ross, Chris McCosky of the Detroit News writes. Ross hasn’t pitched since May 10 because of a nerve issue in his neck. He’s continuing to deal with “tightness” there, Tigers head athletic trainer Doug Teter said Sunday. In Teter’s estimation, there’s a connection between Ross’ neck problems and the thoracic outlet syndrome surgery he underwent as a Padre in 2016. “According to the doctors, these aren’t Thoracic Outlet symptoms,” Teter said. “But that is a large surgery, a huge process, and it makes you wonder. I am going under the assumption that, yes, it does have something to do with it.” Ross’ TOS procedure helped knock what was an impressive career off the rails. The 32-year-old bounced back somewhat between San Diego and St. Louis in 2018, leading Detroit to hand him a $5.75MM guarantee in free agency last winter. Ross has given the Tigers just 35 1/3 innings of 6.11 ERA/5.99 FIP ball, though.
- Twins utilityman Willians Astudillo won’t return from an oblique strain until September, LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune tweets. This will go down as a nightmarish regular season for Astudillo, who has been out since June 27 and saw his numbers nosedive before he went on the injured list. The versatile Astudillo became a fan favorite in Minnesota last year, when he burst on the scene with a .355/.371/.516 slash in a 97-plate appearance debut, but he’s only carrying a .263/.282/.383 line in 142 attempts this season. Astudillo does, however, own rather interesting strikeout and walk percentages (3.5 K, 1.4 BB).
- The Tigers have halted concussed outfielder Christin Stewart’s rehab assignment as a result of “another setback,” according to manager Ron Gardenhire (via McCosky). Stewart, already down since July 29, will have to restart the concussion protocol. This adds to a tough rookie season for the 25-year-old Stewart, who has batted .239/.321/.393 with minus-0.6 fWAR in 327 trips to the plate.