Soler lands everyday role with Royals

27-year-old could play right field or fill designated hitter role

March 17th, 2019

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- is going to be in the lineup somewhere every day this season.

Where he plays – either in right field or as the club’s designated hitter – each day is to be determined.

“How do I know? How do I know what’s going to happen? How do I know he’s not going to play every day? I mean, somebody could get hurt in right field, he could DH some, he could play every day out there [in right field],” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “I don’t look at that stuff. I go day to day. I don’t envision how much time he is going to play out there. He’s going to play every day somewhere.”

Alex Gordon will start in left field and Billy Hamilton will start in center, but the club is still trying to determine how it is going to approach right field with Soler, Brian Goodwin, Brett Phillips and Jorge Bonifacio as the primary options for the position. For now, Yost said the club will likely mix and match the personnel, and it is still evaluating its options. The manager added the possibility of one player winning the position outright before the end of camp. If that player were Soler, the manager said he would not have a problem starting him in right field every day in 2019.

“I will say this, he has made tremendous improvements in the last two years defensively,” Yost said. “He’s worked very hard to become an average right fielder because he was a below average right fielder when he got here, and he just continues to work hard every day. It was a shame that he broke his foot last year because I would have really loved to see what he could have done in a full season because he was really doing a good job when that happened.”

Last season, Soler started 52 games in right field and nine at designated hitter. He was hitting .265 with 18 doubles and nine home runs and 28 RBIs when he suffered a season-ending broken bone in his left foot in June.

So far this spring entering Sunday's game against the Giants, Soler has 13 hits, including four doubles and four home runs, in 48 plate appearances. He’s walked six times, driven in 14 runs and has scored 10 runs.

“Things are going great now and the most important thing for me is to stay healthy the entire year and see what happens,” Soler said in Spanish. “Wherever they decide to put me, I’ll be ready. They can expect the best from me at any position.”

The club will also likely mix and match at designated hitter, using a combination of players that includes guys like Soler, Chris Owings, Aldaberto Mondesi and Hunter Dozier. The Royals will spend the final full week of camp in Arizona weighing options at both spots.

“We are still evaluating, that’s what you are doing,” Yost said. “Your whole organization is evaluating. All of the scouts we have sitting behind home plate, they are evaluating and trying to figure out what’s the best 25 guys we can put together and start the season as a team. We are evaluating and projecting and trying to see what’s the best mix and match for our group.”

There’s still some time left to make the final decisions. The Royals will play an exhibition game against its Triple-A team a week from Monday in Nebraska, and open the season that Thursday against the White Sox at home after two days off.