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Rays Top 50 Prospects: No.14, Nick Solak

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MLB: Spring Training-Tampa Bay Rays at New York Yankees Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

When the Rays dealt Steven Souza to the Diamondbacks, many of us were broken hearted. But when we heard that this guy was part of the returns it definitely helped heal that wound.

No.14, INF Nick Solak, 23 yrs old

Born: January 11th, 1995 in Woodridge, IL

Height/Weight: 5’11” 175 lbs Bats/Throws: R/R

Signed: by the Yankees for $950,000 after taken in the 2nd rd of the 2016 MLB draft

Twitter handle: @Nick_Solak

Twitter profile statement:Chicago | University of Louisville | Tampa Bay Rays Organization”

Baseball America Rankings

  • Ranked as the 19th best Yankees prospect post 2016
  • Ranked as the 12th best Yankees prospect post 2017
  • Ranked as the 14th best prospect in the Florida State League in 2017

DRB Writers ranking

  • High: 14th
  • Low: 21st

Nick Solak: Abilities

  • Above-average hit tool
  • Speed that should allow for good range and 15-20 SB annually
  • Solid on-base abilities
  • Average and versatile fielding abilities

Grades for ‘18 (Pipeline): H: 55 | Pwr: 40 | Run: 55 | Arm: 40 | Fld: 50 | Overall: 50

  • Abilities notes: Although his power isn’t rated highly by Pipeline, Nick has shown enough power to maintain an ISO over .140 in 2017 and that’s expected to remain the case going forward. Overall, that should allow him to maintain a 15-20 HR and 15-20 SB pace annually provided he gets the playing time required to get there.

Joined the Rays by way of....

Trade, with the Yankees of all teams - something that’s a rarity but the second time the Rays have made deals with division rivals in the last year (Beckham to the Orioles being the other).

As a Yankee, Solak was unlikely to get past Gleyber Torres or Didi Gregorius, so he heads to the Rays where at least one of the two middle-infield competitions (2B) should be up for grabs and has him square among the leaders.

Latest Transaction: assigned to Montgomery Biscuits (AA), February 20th, 2018

Note - Nick will likely begin the season in AA thanks to the glut of infield talent at AAA Durham. Likely promotions for Christian Arroyo and Willy Adames will probably lead to a Solak promotion as well.

I normally leave the videos to the end, but there’s an intriguing aspect to the Rays acquisition of Solak which stands out when you see how well he got along with fellow Louisville teammate, Brendan McKay,

Facts, Honors, and Awards

“Nick has shown the ability to hit throughout his college career and continued during his first season in the organization,” “His maturity, attitude, and work ethic led us to believe he would be prepared to start in the Florida State League this season. He has continued to perform and as a result earned the opportunity to advance.”

He’s a plus runner and is at least an average defender at second base with a chance to be a 55.

  • Marc Topkin gave a brief overview of both Anthony Banda and Nick Solak here.
  • TJ Knapp had a thorough season review of Solak’s 2017 here - worth a quick look.
  • Was ranked 5th among 2B in MLB Pipeline’s 2018 rankings.

Stats

Nick Solak 2017

GP 130
GP 130
PA 538
AB 465
Hits 138
Doubles 26
Triples 5
Home Runs 12
RBI 53
SB (CS) 14 (5)
AVG 0.297
OBP 0.384
SLG 0.452
OPS 0.835
BB% 11.7 %
SO% 18.6 %
ISO 0.155
BAbip 0.353
wOBA 0.384
wRC+ 143

Stats Notes: I’ll touch on a lot of the interesting aspects of Nick’s stats in the comparison, but one thing that really stands out is how well he’s handled LHP - managing 30 hits in 92 ABs against them while in HiA with 12 XBH, 21 BB, and 23 SO, and then managing 14 hits in 33 ABs against them while in AA with 7 XBH, 3 BB, 10 SO. It may only be 125 AB overall, but he’s definitely shown a substantial ability to do damage against LHP.

Interesting Comparison: Dustin Pedroia

Pedroia is an inch shorter than Solak but both weigh 175 lbs and are RHB. Both were viewed to this point as good offensive 2B, with Pedroia having a big edge when it came to defensive abilities - something Solak may never be able to match.

Nonetheless, the similarities are many between these two, and it begins with video of them hitting. From how they stand at the plate to how they drive through pitches, they are very similar.

Unfortunately, a direct comp at the same age is not possible since Pedroia managed to get to MLB at 21 yrs old, an indication of how advanced his play was. The only thing we can present as a comparison is that Pedroia (between AA and AAA) managed almost identical stats in 2005 to what Solak managed in 2017 between HiA and AA - albeit at different ages.

Pedroia (2005) hit .293/.385/.452 through 460 AB with 44 XBH and 8 SB

Solak (2017) hit .297/.384/.452 through 465 AB with 43 XBH and 14 SB

Now, I understand the comp is null because of the levels played, but I also can’t help but wonder how it’ll translate to 2018 and beyond for Solak.

Pedroia spent the majority of the 2006 season in AAA and we’d expect Solak to do the same for the majority of 2018, so perhaps a more direct comp will be possible at that point.

Having said that, if you told me that Solak matched Pedroia’s offensive output as an every day 2B in the future, I wouldn’t be surprised in the least. Pedroia hit a high of 21 HR, 91 RBI, and 26 SB in 2011 but has generally worked below that - with solid batting lines the majority of the time.

We’d expect something similar from Solak if he earns a regular playing role.

Notes for 2018 and beyond

While his defensive abilities may never match Pedroia’s, they are solid enough to project him earning a full-time 2B role. And that’s what needs to happen for Solak to get into MLB because he lacks the versatility and arm strength to project well as a utility infielder, limiting him to 2B and possibly LF/CF.

With this in mind, the Rays are going to make sure Solak gets the vast majority of 2B time at whichever level he plays, and with Willy Adames and Christian Arroyo looking to spend some time there to begin 2018, it places Solak in AA to begin the year.

That, however, should be short-lived as he is likely to make quick work of AA and get himself set and tested at the AAA by season’s end. And between him and Brandon Lowe, the Rays have a dog fight on their hands when it comes to earning the 2B role at both levels.

There’s nothing wrong with healthy competition at the position, and that doesn’t even include two other new additions the Rays made in Jermaine Palacios and Tristan Gray, both of whom can also have an impact on 2B in the future if Solak and/or Lowe were to falter.

For 2018, we’ll be looking mainly at how well Solak’s defensive abilities hold up and whether he can separate himself from the competition at the plate, particularly with a look at how his power works at the AA and AAA levels.

We’re looking forward to seeing what Solak can do in the Rays system in 2018 and whether or not McKay can and him and reunite at some point in the near future.

Nick Solak: Spotlight Videos

Recap and links of previously listed DRB Top 55 Rays Prospects

*Note: rankings were adjusted and reflect recent additions to the system - it is now a Top 55 list