Solarte has been just what the Yankees need early in the season

Tell me there isn't some Robbie Cano in that follow through. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Cano-esque with the follow through. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Back in January, the Yankees signed a nondescript journeyman named Yangervis Solarte to a minor league contract. It was reported that he would compete with guys like Eduardo Nunez and Dean Anna for a bench spot in Spring Training, but come on. Yangervis Solarte? When I posted the news of the signing, I wrote “he’s likely at the very bottom of the infield depth chart.” You know why I wrote that? Because he was.

Then, in Spring Training, Solarte became that guy. The random player no one knew anything about who had a huge spring. Solarte hit .429/.489/.571 with two homers in 47 plate appearances during Grapefruit League play, and most years that would mean nothing. The Yankees tend to have very few roster spots up for grabs in camp. This year was different though, and Solarte played his way into consideration for a bench job –Brendan Ryan‘s injury certainly helped — a bench job he eventually won. He didn’t just take Nunez’s job, he took his 40-man roster spot and uniform number. Scorched earth.

Solarte made his Yankees debut as a pinch-hitter in the team’s second game of the season, banging into a rally killing double play in his first at-bat. He got the start the next day and went 3-for-3 with a double. He went 2-for-5 with two doubles the next day. Then 2-for-3 the next day. Then 1-for-3 with a double the next day and 1-for-3 with a walk the day after that. Yesterday, Solarte went 2-for-4 with two doubles. He got into the lineup and he hasn’t given Joe Girardi a reason to take him out.

So, now that the hot spring has turned into a hot start to the season, we’re sitting here wondering if Weird Al Yangervis (h/t @rxmeister28) is legit. And who knows, really? I don’t know, you don’t know, the Yankees don’t know, no one knows. I mean, obviously Solarte will not continue to hit .458/.519/.708 (248 wRC+) all season because no one does that. I’d be happy with literally half that production (124 wRC+). But, eventually balls like this …

… will not find a hole on the infield. Balls like this …

… will not drop in for a base hit. Balls like this …

… will not plop out of the outfielder’s glove. Let’s not kid ourselves here. Solarte has definitely been lucky these first eight games, and yes, it’s luck. That word is thrown around way too often to explain random events in baseball, but a pop-up falling between a bunch of infielders? Luck. A soft line drive clanking out of a Gold Glove right fielder’s mitt? Luck. Let’s call it what it is.

At the same time, Solarte’s MLB-leading (!) six doubles are not luck. Five of the six have either clanked off the wall or landed on the warning track. The other was a bloop that a diving outfielder just missed. Solarte has a little bit of pop in his bat — I’m not sure how much harder he can hit a ball than five doubles, it looked like he got a hold of each one — and he can turn on a mistake pitch. Some of the singles have been lucky. The doubles? Not so much.

Solarte, who is only 26 and had never played in the big leagues before this season, did not make the team just because of his hot spring. He made the team because he’s a switch-hitter who makes a lot of contact (one strikeout in 27 plate appearances so far) and can play reliable defense at second base, third base, and in left field. He can even fill in at shortstop in a pinch. Is he a great defender? No. But he is adequate, something you could not say about the man he replaced.

How long will Solarte’s hot start last? Who knows. It could end today, it could end next week, it could end in July. I’m not ready to declare him a long-term piece for the Yankees but he is playing very well right now and the production is in the bank. It happened and it helped the team win games while Mark Teixeira has been hurt and the middle of the order has gotten off to a slow start. He’s been just what the team needed.

Solarte should play everyday until he stops hitting, and moving him up a spot or three in the lineup isn’t a bad idea either. Even if he turns into a pumpkin tomorrow, the club has already gotten more out of him than they could have reasonably expected, and he’s been a huge boost early in the season.

Categories : Offense


  1. nyyankfan_7 says:

    “He didn’t just take Nunez’s job, he took his 40-man roster spot and uniform number. Scorched earth.”

    Perhaps the greatest sentence I’ve ever read in an article here at RAB.

    Bravo Mr. Axisa, Bravo

  2. Bats says:

    The guy takes pitches and a good swing. I think he is what the Yankees need to replace Cano.

  3. Bats says:

    Let me just add,…

    Unlike other Yankee hitters, he has a line drive (type) swing. Instead of trying to upper cut the ball and swing for the fences, his swing is level. Combined that with bat speed, good eye on the ball, and “heart” he probably and potentially a long term solution for the Yankees. In addition, the man is a husband and a (new) father, therefore his maturity level is sound. I like this guy alot.

    • I'm One says:

      Don’t know anything about his personal life, but being a new father does not ensure a sound maturity level. I can see it adding to his drive to succeed, however.

    • The Great Gonzo says:

      Some of the absolute biggest hard-ons (under 30 Division) I know are (or are about to be) fathers. With that said, some of the most level headed young guys (also under 30 Division) are not parents or married. Some of you guys know them too…

      Getting married after or before not wearing a rubber does not equal sound maturity. Actually, its typically the complete exact opposite.

    • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

      “In addition, the man is a husband and a (new) father, therefore his maturity level is sound.”

      Dios mio. Here’s a rabbit hole I really don’t want to go down.

      Does he go to church every Sunday and always keep all his pairs of boots clean as well?

    • nycsportzfan says:

      I mentioned in a game thread the other day, that there was quite a few upper cut swingers in the lineup, and I also agree, Solarte is a nice addition to those kinda swings, and I like his linedrive approach. Linedrive hitters, tend to hit a few hrs, just from making hard contact. Lets also add in, this guys a switch hitter, which helps hit chances of sticking around awhile longer.

      How great would it be if Solarte became the next bit thing in NY? I don’t know if he will, and frankly doubt it, but could we have a LIN-sanity scenario on are hands with Solarte, if he hits like hes been for the next wk or so?

  4. Matt DiBari says:

    If when he cools off he can settle into a competent backup he’s a marked improvement over Nunez and everything we had last year.

    • I'm One says:

      +1. The only thing he lacks is Nunez’s speed. I would take him over any of the reserves (many of whom became regulars) the team had last season. While his defense isn’t outstanding, it is adequate and right now, his bat is more than making up for it.

    • CashmanNinja says:

      Exactly this. Even if he does fall back to Earth he’s shown more in a week than Nunez did in his career. I felt bad for Nunez, but the guy had so many chances and just seemed…I don’t know…content maybe? Solarte just has that look to him where it seems like he knows he can fall back to Earth any day and will fight tooth and claw to hold on as long as possible. He’s got a little fight to him and that sort of energy is infectious. I hope he continues to mash (and be lucky).

    • Dan says:

      If he can turn into the type of player Luis Sojo was for the next several years, I’d be extremely thrilled and I think the Yankees would be too.

      • jsbrendog says:

        luis sojo was an absolutely atrocious ball player and if he becomes sojo i hope they cut him.


        • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

          That’s because you’re ignoring all his great minor league coaching experience. That counts, right? Right?

        • Dan says:

          I’m not going to get into an argument about Luis Sojo’s WAR.
          He was a backup infielder who could play multiple infield positions and had some big hits when he came off the bench. He played as a Yankee for parts of 6 seasons, including making it to 5 world series and winning 4. I’m not going to say Sojo was the reason for the championships, that’s definitely not true. But he was useful bench player for them.

          If Solarte is a useful backup infielder for the next 6 years, while playing multiple positions, and having some big hits in key situations, it would be great.

        • vicki says:

          i can’t let people talk shit about luis sojo. you need to apologize.

  5. Pineda Colada says:

    This is why the Yankees let cano walk…they clearly looked into the crystal ball and forsaw all De dublez plus he hustles to first on ground balls. Who was that cano guy anyway? Someone give this man a raise!

    OK I’m done

  6. Vern Sneaker says:

    No reason to believe he won’t continue to make good contact at the plate. His K% last three years in AA and AAA were 7.0,7.7, and 12.0. A switch-hitter who makes good contact and plays adequate defense. Of course he’ll get figured out and his hot streak will end, but the question reamins: When Tex gets back, is Kelly Johnson an upgrade at third over Solarte? Certainly, power-wise, but overall? I think it’s a fair and open question despite the small Solarte sample.

    • Preston says:

      I think the fact that Solarte and Johnson are both versatile makes it less of an issue. Johnson will get time at 3b, 2b, 1b and maybe some OF too. Solarte can play 3b, SS, and 2b. Given the age and health concerns of the lineup and the relative youth and health of Solarte and Johnson it shouldn’t be difficult to get both 500 ABs.

      • I'm One says:

        Seems the Yankees have a nice opportunity to play Johnson, Solarte & Roberts in some sort of rotation to enurse they all get adeqaute rest to keep them healthy (especially Roberts) while ensuring Solarte isn’t overly exposed, once Tex retuns. Hope it work out well.

    • The Great Gonzo says:

      I would imagine they will have a 3-to-5 headed infield rotation, getting Jeter and Roberts days off with Johnson filling in those days and riding hot streaks as they peak and valley.

      Solatre ‘can play’ 2B/SS/2B, Johnson 1B/2B/3B, Ryan can go anywhere… having this many versatile guys is one of those ‘good problems’ we hear so much about.

    • Chris in Maine says:

      No worries, Roberts will be on the DL by then and Kelly and Solarte will both have a spot.

  7. TWTR says:

    As I said in the game thread yesterday, Like Wells, the passing of April my end Solarte’s magic, but unlike Wells, as a result the age difference, at least there is hope for something more enduring.

    If nothing else he has bought time for Beltran, McCann, Soriano, and even Teix to wtfu.

  8. Jersey Joe says:

    I may be getting ahead of myself, but how long is Yangy the Yankee under team control if he was a minor league free agent? I’d like to see him in a similar role next year.

    • Mike Axisa says:

      He’s never been in MLB before, so he has all six years of team control left.

      • Looser Trader Droids Kenobi FotD™ says:


        • lightSABR says:

          No kidding. I’m repeating the words “small sample size” to myself over and over to try to stay rational, but it’s hard not to salivate a bit over the prospect of a dirt-cheap regular with an above-average bat for the next half decade.

    • ALZ says:

      They would still control him next 6 years. Minor league free agents don’t bypass the rule. They just have the option of going to free agency that year.

  9. John Duci says:

    I believe he is going to keep it up for the entire season. He’s got talent and now he’s confident as we’ll so were seeing the results. Now he just needs someone to introduce him to PEDs and those doubles will be out of the park. No I’m not kidding that would be awesome.

  10. Yangeddard Soly says:

    This kid has come out of nowhere to be a great asset to the ballclub so of course people have to tear him down. I think he’s going to be an everyday player all season. Who’s going to knock him off his perch, Kelly Johnson? We needed a 3B and now we have one. Kelly can backup.

    • Jersey Joe says:

      Pretty sure Brian Roberts would be pushed off the keystone in the event that Yangy keeps up these numbers. KJ has been doing pretty well.

    • Dave Guarnieri says:

      KJ very busy at first base, Cervelli is awful. If it looks like Teixiera can’t play 80 games at First, they have to make a move—give him a month—Morales (if he is still around?). Defensively, due to injury he is compromised, and injury prone.

      Scrapheap, Carlos Pena if the situation becomes desperate??????

  11. Algernon Blackwood says:

    I’m just hoping they don’t find some washed up 40 year old salary dump to replace him with.

  12. MB923 says:

    Off topic,

    MLB is relaunching the Relief Award and it will now be given in each league and it was be renamed after Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman


    • Macho Man "Randy Levine" says:

      Dumb. No need to honor both guys. No one will ever touch Mo’s greatness. Sorry, Trevor, you weren’t that good.

      • Jersey Joe says:

        Yeah. 2.87 ERA just won’t cut it.

      • Preston says:

        600 saves are 600 saves, and he did it for some bad Padres teams. He isn’t Mo, but it makes some sense that one guy pitched exclusively in the AL and one guy pitched exclusively in the NL.

        • The Great Gonzo says:

          Zero Fucks. It will be known on RAB as the ‘Other Mariano Award’

        • Macho Man "Randy Levine" says:

          You do realize that saves are actually meaningless, right? Hoffman also some significant games, too, and just doesn’t have the postseason prowess of Mo.

          And don’t even get me started on the WAR difference.

          • Macho Man "Randy Levine" says:

            Hoffman also BLEW some significant games.

            Sorry about that.

            • Preston says:

              Hoffman is definitely inferior to Mo. But if you were going to give out the award to the best NL guy who is it. Most people remember Lee Smith as a Red Sox, Rollie Fingers is an A and most people remember Gossage as a Yankee. The only other guy who’s a National League guy would be Billy Wagner. Wagner was great, but to the extent that people value saves that’s a huge difference. I also think the fact that Hoffman threw the large majority of his innings for one team puts him over the top compared to the other guys who were mostly journey men.

              • The Great Gonzo says:

                Counterpoint: The AL & NL Versions of the Cy Young are both Cy Young Awards. I feel like this cheapens it slightly. Give it one name (pick one), or leave it the Rolaids/Charmin/Tums/Ammonium AD/Analeaze Relief Awards for all I give a shit.

                • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

                  The Yangervis Solarte (if he were a closer) Award. There.

                • Preston says:

                  Counterpoint, Cy Young spent half of his career in each league, with 286 wins in the NL and 225 in the AL. So it’s not exactly the same situation. I’m not saying I wouldn’t like it to be the Mariano Rivera award, or that it wouldn’t be better if it was. I’m just saying that this makes some amount of sense.

            • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead says:

              I really hate to say it, but so did Mo.

              • Macho Man "Randy Levine" says:

                Well, yea, of course he did. But he also closed out how many games? Hoffman had such a small fraction of said successes.

                • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead says:

                  Mostly due to being on a shitty team, which I don’t think either of us would claim was his fault.

                  • Macho Man "Randy Levine" says:

                    My point was that Hoffman seemed to blow pretty much every big game in which he pitched.

                    Not completely provable, I know, but I maintain my point that Rivera was streets ahead of Hoffman.

                    Also, like Manny said, it’s just the Cy Young Award. And, to take that further, isn’t the ROY award referred to as the Jackie Robinson Award now?

                    • Jim Is A (Bored) Peckerhead says:

                      You won’t get any argument from me, I’d totally be on board with the Mariano Rivera Award.

                      I just think Hoffman gets pretty short shrift sometimes, he was pretty frickin good.

    • MB923 says:

      *will be, not was be. Sorry, my English is off today.

  13. mt says:

    Yangervis should change his name to Yankeervis.

    His hot start is great (and Ellsbury since Toronto has been red-hot). Just hope that McCann, Beltran and Soriano wake up (Soriano has been better the last couple of games).

    • The Great Gonzo says:

      ‘Yangervis should change his name to Yankeervis’

      That’s gonna make the inevitable trade to Pittsburgh sorta awkward, AmiRite?

  14. Jersey Joe says:

    I will get backlash for this.


    How long does he need to keep this up in order to be a valuable trade piece?

    Someone had to say it.

  15. John Duci says:

    1B- Tex
    2B- KJ
    SS- Jeter
    3B- Solarte

    I like that infield a lot actually.

    • Looser Trader Droids Kenobi FotD™ says:

      I think you’re nuts, though in fairness I guess it depends on how you define lot.

    • The Great Gonzo says:

      I actually hate it. A walking injury risk, a 40YO who just lost a season for injury, one unproven AAA journeyman rookie and one guy who ‘can hit’ but hasn’t? Decidedly meh.

      This is the textbook description of ‘alot of things need to break right’. Half of it has, the other half… not so much.

    • Dave Guarnieri says:

      Fine, but counting on Tiexiera to get and stay healthy is becoming unrealistic.

  16. RM says:

    If you look around baseball you find players who always had good minor league stats but for some reason never had a shot. Some examples Ben Zobrist , Kevin Youkilis and as Ken Rosenthal mentioned yesterday Melvin Mora . Now I am not says Solarte is anyone of those players, but he could turn out to be. He has a Melky Cabrera type of swing and does not strike out that often. It also looks like he has idea at the plate. With that said playing multiple positions helps, so even when Tex comes back we still may see him getting playing time IF he keeps up his plate approach.

    • Preston says:

      Zobrist and Youkilis are bad examples. They didn’t get to the show until they were older because they were college seniors. Youk got jerked around a little in 2004 and 2005 when he was probably ready to be on the big league team. But he got drafted in 2001 and made the majors in 2004. Zobrist got drafted in 2004 and debuted in 2006, he played fewer than 200 games in the minors. Neither languished in the minors the way Solarte did. Mora is a good example, but I’m hard pressed to find other examples of guys who were in the minors this long who had sustained big league success.

      • The Great Gonzo says:

        Worth mentioning Gardner didn’t light the minors on fire either, if memory serves.

        • Chris H says:

          He’s also a gold glove center fielder with speed for days.

        • Gonzo says:

          I’m not crazy about the Gardner comp. Brett plays elite defense, has great speed, and had a .390 OBP in the minors. He was a 3rd round pick on top of that. Solarte, bless his little heart, doesn’t have any of that going for him as far as I know.

      • RM says:

        Well Raul Ibanez has around the same number of minor league at-bats and I pretty sure I could think of a few more if I had too. Sometimes players just get over looked in organizations. If Solarte bats .260 with 12 hrs and 50 rbi and a obp around .325 I would sign up for that in a minute.

        • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

          Yes, sometimes it happens, but the fact that we’re reaching for very specific names, and whiffing on some of them, says a lot.

          Isn’t Ian Kinsler always the best example here? Dan Uggla, perhaps?

          • RM says:

            Uggla, Todd Frazier, and Josh Willingham all had over 2,000 minor league at-bats before staring in the majors in their mid-20′s.

            • RM says:

              You would be surprised how many players spend many years in the minors before giving a chance. Jayson Werth other name that comes to mind. I know it must be like under 10% of those types of players but they do exist.

              • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

                All good names, I think. It’s certainly possible, and I can’t think of any good reason why a Yankee fan should be rooting for anything other than his continued success.

                I just think we all need to remember what the odds are before we write him in in pen for even the rest of the season.

              • Preston says:

                I think there is an important distinction to be made with Solarte in that he became a minor league FA. Most of these other guys were at least thought worthy of getting a 40 man spot, or had trade value to a team that would give them a 40 man spot. The Rangers just let him walk away. Doesn’t mean that they can’t be wrong, but it is an important distinction to make between a guy who a team didn’t call up for a long time, or traded because he was blocked and a guy that was just cut loose.

                • RM says:

                  Jose Quintana was a minor league player we cut loose that just signed a nice “little” contract. Point is sometimes players do fall in the cracks. I just hope maybe Solarte is one of those.

                  • Preston says:

                    I think we all are hoping that. I’m just saying that a lot of guys have looked really good over the course of 7 games. If this happened in July instead of May we probably wouldn’t be talking about it. On the other hand his MiLB track record is extensive and not overly impressive.

                    • RM says:

                      I disagree his MiLB stats are not that bad at all. Second in the Eastern League in BA 2011. He was in a organization (Rangers) that are full of middle infield prospects and was over looked. Listen I am not expecting a All Star but he could be a useful and capable ML.

                    • Preston says:

                      His batting line in AAA the last two years is misleading because the PCL is very offensive friendly. He’s been below league average both years. In fact Corban Joseph has been far better in AAA than Solarte while being a year younger.

          • Steve (different one) says:

            Uggla is the guy, methinks

            • Dave Guarnieri says:

              KJ very busy at first base, Cervelli is awful. If it looks like Teixiera can’t play 80 games at First, they have to make a move—give him a month—Morales (if he is still around?). Defensively, due to injury he is compromised, and injury prone.

              Scrapheap, Carlos Pena if the situation becomes desperate??????

              • Jorge Steinbrenner says:

                This seems like a pretty misplaced reply.

                • Dave Guarnieri says:

                  The point is that Pena may be a better alternative than Uggla. Uggla would get most of his playing time at Second. Signing Pena frees up Kelly Johnson to play 2nd. So pick your poison.

                  First Base: Johnson (with no viable back-up)
                  Second Base: Roberts–back up’s Uggla and Johnson, also frees up Johnson to play a bit at third.
                  First Base: Pena getting most of the playing time, Johnson his back-up. I do understand they are both left handed hitters—but nothing is “ideal” here. Ideal is Tex being able to stay on the field.
                  Second Base: Roberts/Uggla with Johnson as the back-up to Roberts. Also frees up Johnson to play some 3rd (same as if they signed Pena).

                  Solarte still a wild-card which is the point of this entire thread.

                  So who would you rather have, Pena or Uggla?

    • lightSABR says:

      Only one problem with your analogy: Solarte’s been in the minors since 2007, and he’s only put up “good minor league stats” for a full season once, in 2011. (He also had good stats his rookie year, and in about 80 games played in 2010.)

    • Mandy Stankiewicz says:

      I asked ray navarettethis exact question, he said “sometimes, you just gotta be someone’s ‘guy.’”

  17. Tom says:

    What is kind of awesome is if you click on the search player box over at Fangraphs, Solarte’s name shows up on the drop down list. The list is the most searched names until you start typing in the actual name you are looking for.

  18. Jorge Steinbrenner says:

    He’s so good that, through sheer divine act, the DiMaggio plaque in Monument Park has slowly started morphing facially in order to resemble him.

    In all seriousness, there definitely seem to be tools present, by just watching him, that seem to indicate a potential diamond in the rough here. I’ve also seen this movie many, many times. Shit on the guy when he’s signed to the MiLB in November, declare him a savior by April, Cashman Failed when he’s DFA’ed in June. We call it the DeWayne Wise Arc for a reason.

    I’m actually surprised didn’t read worse. Maybe we are learning from all this.


  19. Jorge Steinbrenner says:

    He looks downright Sheffield-like in that pic, BTW.

  20. mustang says:

    No one here believes in

    “SOLAR POWER ” !!!!!

    I love you man!!!

  21. Steve (different one) says:

    What was that guy on the Red Sox a few years ago that no one could get out for a month? Pedro Ciriaco?

    That’s your yellow light.

  22. FA says:

    He’ll drive in a run for Tanaka tonight and make my night up in 420!

  23. Pinedamaybegreata (formerly Monterowasdinero) says:

    Whoever said Solarte reminds them of Melky at the plate (minus the PED’s), I totally agree.

  24. EndlessJose says:


    Yeah I remember Wells being the bet hitter in April.Also don’ forget Jorge Posada great April,Hughes/Burnett/Pettitte great April and Tio Martinez’s 5 taright homeruns.

    Cashman make good deals but they don’t last long.

  25. Gonzo says:

    I think people are getting way ahead of themselves here. Enjoy the ride. Stop trying to fit him into a mold of a player that took longer to make it. For every Melvin Mora (he was on the infamous 2003 PED report), there are a bunch of Bryan LaHair, Kevin Maas types. Shoot remember when Didi Gregorious had DBack fans telling writers, “I told you so” over and over again last year?

    Relax and enjoy. He might be DFA’d in a few months or he might be a integral part of a good team.

  26. tommy cassella says:

    i will not miss nunez because he played like he had a hole in his glove.

  27. Patrick says:

    I’m glad they finally got rid of Nunez, I never saw in him what they did. Solarte’s been very impressive so far. He’s got a disciplined approach at the plate which is keeping him from striking out much and I think will help him avoid getting into any major slumps. And while he may not be winning any Gold Gloves, he’s proven quite versatile, and certainly better at handling a utility role like that better than Nunez ever could. That kind of consistency and flexibility is going to ensure he gets plenty of playing time this season as long as he continues to produce.

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