El Niño has been on fire lately.
Although most San Diegans would not be pleased by this sort of statement – after all, it’s a forecast for warmer, wetter conditions – this time, it can actually be welcomed as good news.
“El Niño” is a nickname given to Padres’ infielder Yangervis Solarte, who is on a path to finishing the 2015 season with a bang.
Since September 1st, the switch-hitting Venezuela native has gone 17-for-37 (.459) with eight runs scored. Six of those seventeen hits have gone for extra bases. He had quite the evening on September 3rd, when he went 4-for-5 in the team’s win over the Dodgers, and became the 260th Padre to finish a triple short of the cycle. He has struck out only twice so far in September, while raising his batting average sixteen points from .260 to .276. He now has the second-highest average on the team (minimum 200 at-bats), and third-highest on-base percentage and slugging percentage. His thirty doubles ties him with Derek Norris for the most on the Padres, and places him fourth amongst all NL third basemen.
Solarte has also been relatively solid with his glove, and his versatility gives him an added value. He is not “by trade” any specific position player. In his entire professional career – which ranges across parts of three seasons in the MLB, eight in the minors, and two in foreign winter leagues – Solarte has played in over one hundred games at third base, second base, and left field.
Manager Pat Murphy took full advantage of Solarte’s flexibility this season, playing him in 28 games at first base, 17 at second base, and 75 at third base – with respective fielding percentages of .980, .983, and .968.
If Solarte’s recent hot streak is any indication of what to expect from him next year, the Padres will face some tough decisions before the start of the 2016 campaign. As it stands now, the infield is crowded with solid players.
Solarte will be right in the mix at second base, along with Cory Spangenberg, Alexi Amarista, and Jedd Gyorko – although the team appears to trying their hand at Gyorko playing shortstop. More likely, Solarte will be competing for the starting role at the hot corner. He will likely be in running with Spangenberg and Will Middlebrooks. Also look for Yonder Alonso to have some trials there if Wil Myers‘ transition to first base goes as smoothly as planned.
Dependent on the number of off-season transactions that General Manager AJ Preller will make, that cast can quickly shrink or grow.
Until then, San Diego hopes El Niño will continue to hit hard.