After the Washington Nationals decided to bring back Sammy Solis last week, the left-hander likely deserves one last chance with the team this spring.
It’s tough to recall a player in the last few years that has divided Washington Nationals fans quite like Sammy Solis. The left-handed reliever appears to be on thin ice as we head towards 2019, but he deserves one final chance to prove his worth.
Last Friday, the Nationals agreed a one-year $850,000 deal with Solis to avoid arbitration. While the agreement was met with criticism from a portion of fans, for that little it’s well worth at least giving him a chance to earn a job in Spring Training.
Solis finished the 2018 season with an ugly 6.41 ERA and poor 1.551 WHIP in just 39.1 innings coming out of the bullpen. Just about every number was a career-worst last season, which is why it wasn’t necessarily a slam dunk that the team would tender him a contract.
More from District on Deck
- Washington Nationals Minor League Spotlight: Robert Hassell III
- Washington Nationals Tuesday Q&A
- 3 Free Agents the Nationals Should Gamble On
- A Washington Nationals Christmas Wishlist
- Washington Nationals: Is Seth Lugo Still an Option?
Tendering him a contract, especially one for less than $1 million, definitely doesn’t guarantee him a spot in the big leagues next season. But in his time with the Nationals, he has at least had several flashes of upside that make it a perfect low-risk, medium-reward gamble on an arm who is still young.
For starters, before a surprise demotion to Triple-A, he actually fared fairly well, with a 3.28 ERA in his first 36 appearances, surrendering runs in just seven of those 36 outings. Nats manager Dave Martinez clearly trusted him early on. But with that in mind, it’s fair to wonder whether overuse burnt him out as he appeared in 36 of the first 70 games for the team.
Solis also has the raw stuff that should translate to at least being a useful reliever at the highest level. He possesses a solid fastball that averages 93.6mph, a hard-breaking curveball which averages 79.5mph and a changeup averaging 85.1mph. When he harnesses his pitches, he is among the most talented arms in the bullpen.
However, if Sammy Solis is going to make a serious run at a major league roster spot, he has to improve against left-handed hitters. Lefties slashed an incredible .329/.398/.595 against the Nats left-hander after Martinez continually used him in a lefty-specialist despite struggling against them throughout the season.
He has at least had previous success against left-handers, as in his breakout 2016 season, lefties slashed just .200/.273/.283 against him. He also struck out almost a third of the left-handers that he faced, so there is at least a chance that he can get back to those levels again in 2019. But make no mistake, Solis is hanging on by his fingernails right now and will need to make a sizeable impression to stick with the team to start the year.
Yes, Sammy Solis had a poor season for the Washington Nationals in 2018. However, with his flashes of promise and fairly low-risk contract, expect to see him battling for a spot in the bullpen come Spring Training with a cavalcade of other low-cost fliers.