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In the first few editions of this season’s Buyers Guide, we’ll focus on players who were typically drafted outside of the top 300. Fantasy leagues can be won by investing early in players poised to have breakout performances. The Buyer’s Guide is our attempt to help you have a gauge on those lesser-owned players who could make a significant impact during the course of the fantasy season.

The first Buyer’s Guide of 2017 will focus on Jorge Soler, who has long tantalized owners (real and fantasy) with his raw power. In a 2014 Scouting Report, Soler was praised for his “impact power potential” and was given “high” overall future potential. However, the warning signs were already there in terms of Soler’s durability and hit tool, and those concerns are still nagging him three years later.

Soler is currently owned in 11 percent of ESPN leagues and 21 percent of Yahoo leagues. Is he a player worth investing in at the start of the 2017 season? Let’s start by looking at the good and the bad when it comes to Soler’s performance.

The Good

There were a few positive developments in Soler’s approach at the plate last season. His walk rate climbed above 10 percent for the first time (11.7 percent), and he “cut” his strikeout rate to 25 percent. The positive signs also included a decreased O-Swing% and a decreased swing percentage overall. Those might not be staggering results, but they were certainly steps in the right direction for Soler.

Even though Soler was limited to 264 plate appearances, he still hit 12 home runs. If he’s able to stay relatively healthy, it’s easy to see him consistently providing owners with 20-25 home runs (and possibly more). His power potential is what helped him ascend the prospect rankings, and at just 25 years old it shouldn’t be declining anytime soon.

The other positive for Soler heading into 2017 is a change in scenery. He leaves behind a crowded Cubs roster and outfield for the less formidable Royals lineup. If he’s able to stay healthy, Soler should see regular playing time between the outfield and designated hitter. The simple fact that Soler could receive regular, consistent playing time in Kansas City is reason alone to be bullish on him.

The Bad

Soler has yet to show the ability to stay healthy throughout an entire major-league season. In each of his first three years at the big-league level, he’s had health issues that have kept him off the field for some length of time. Last season, it was a hamstring issue. This year he’s already battling an oblique injury that has landed him on the 10-day disabled list to open the season. Soler has never played more than 101 games in a season, and that track record makes the hesitancy of some owners to draft him understandable.

Even with the positive steps in Soler’s approach at the plate, there are reasons to be concerned about his future production. The fact that he cut his strikeout rate is a positive sign, but 25 percent is still on the high end. He’s also had back-to-back seasons with a contact rate under 70 percent. When Soler hits the ball it can go a long way, but it’s hard to trust him to make regular contact.

A few other issues might make owners cautious. Soler’s batting average dropped to .238 last season, although his BABIP was unusually low given his previous history. Also, the move from Wrigley to Kauffman isn’t likely to help his power production, but it shouldn’t dramatically decrease his numbers either. Last year Wrigley ranked 24th in HR/G while Kauffman ranked 27th.

Buyer’s Guide: Buy

The injury concerns are real, and if you want to stay away for that reason it’s understandable. However, Soler offers the potential of providing significantly more production than other outfielders who were available at a similar spot in the draft.

A comparison of Soler’s PECOTA projection with the projections of those outfielders taken immediately after him highlights this fact.

Player (ADP)

PA

BA

HR

R

RBI

SB

Jorge Soler (304)

579

.254

21

67

76

2

Mitch Haniger (308)

529

.253

22

67

68

6

Cameron Maybin (309)

296

.249

5

33

27

10

Kevin Pillar (309)

553

.274

11

62

54

17

Alex Gordon (320)

567

.255

15

63

64

7

Assuming you’re not just looking for steals, in which case Kevin Pillar was your likely pick, Soler has the highest upside of anyone in this category. The case for Mitch Haniger over Soler is reasonable, but Soler does provide more of a track record (admittedly injury-riddled) that makes his projections a little safer.

You don’t have to work too hard to imagine a world in which Soler hits at least .260 with 20-25 HR and 80-plus RBIs. Any fantasy owner would welcome that kind of production on a roster, and it’s potentially there from a player readily available in a significant number of leagues. If the oblique injury lingers at all I’ll quickly sell my stock, but for now there are reasons to be cautiously optimistic.

Thank you for reading

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