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21 MLB players to watch in 2021: San Francisco Giants 2B Donovan Solano

Through the month of March, leading up to MLB Opening Day on April 1,
Sports Spectrum is highlighting 21 Christ-following players to watch in 2021.

The journey from Colombia to MLB Silver Slugger featured, to say the least, a few detours for San Francisco Giants second baseman Donovan Solano. But he’s now firmly entrenched as an everyday major leaguer, and he’s set on becoming even better in 2021.

So far this spring training, Solano is hitting .452 (14 hits in 31 at-bats over 12 games), including three home runs, which is how many he hit all of last season (190 at-bats over 54 games). His power isn’t what earned him his first Silver Slugger award — it was his .326 batting average and .828 OPS — but he’s stated that one of his goals is to hit for more power this season.

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“I want to avoid striking out,” Solano told reporters through Spanish language translator this week. “I see myself as the type of player that puts the ball in play and I know that I’m trying to hit extra-base hits, but all of the sudden, I’m hitting home runs. So I think that’s a good thing for me right now.”

His manager, Gabe Kapler, loves to see the home-run increase, but thinks it’s too early to be certain that power will stay for the 5-foot-8, 210-pound infielder.

“I think you can make the case that the swing is a little bit more powerful,” Kapler told the media. “It’s pretty hard to make any definitive statements here in spring training. The atmosphere is a little bit different here, the ball carries pretty well. But Donnie has power to all fields, he uses the field line to line which is part of what makes him a dangerous all-around hitter.”

Solano’s consistent hitting is what has the 33-year-old enjoying a regular spot on an MLB team for the first time since 2014.

The Colombia native signed with the St. Louis Cardinals as an international free agent in 2005, but never appeared in a major-league game over his seven seasons with the organization. He finally made his major-league debut as a 24-year-old with the Miami Marlins in 2012, he totaled a career-high 395 plate appearances in 2013, and he played a career-high 111 games in 2014 (with 340 plate appearances).

But then he saw only 55 games and hit .189 with the Marlins in 2015, appeared in nine games for the New York Yankees in 2016, and spent much of the next 2.5 years in the minors with the Yankees and Dodgers affiliates.

In 2019, however, he joined the Giants on a minor-league contract, and turned around his career. After a month at Triple-A, the Giants brought him back up to the big leagues.

Solano hit .330 in 81 games in 2019, and carried that momentum into the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, which netted him the Silver Slugger (given to the best offensive player at each position in both the American and National Leagues each year).

His opportunity with the Giants in 2019 came at shortstop in place of the injured Brandon Crawford. When asked about his ability to step into the lineup and produce immediately, Solano credited his consistent routine and his faith in God.

“I’m a believer and I have a deal with God,” he told The Mercury News through a translator that summer. “And the deal is I’m going to continue working and persist and not give up and when He opens the door, I’m going to take advantage of it.”

He’s following through on that deal, and praising God along the way. Solano often mentions his faith on his Instagram page in his native Spanish, frequently citing Bible verses. His favorite is Zechariah 4:6.

“So he said to me, ‘This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: “Not by might nor by power, but My Spirit,” says the LORD Almighty.’” — Zechariah 4:6

“Do everything God’s way. Do things with the Holy Spirit and you will reach His promises,” Solano posted last summer.

 

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As he strives to do things God’s way, Solano hopes to lead the Giants back to the playoffs, which they’ve missed every year since 2016. In the process, he may also challenge for the NL batting title, which a Giant hasn’t won since Buster Posey in 2012.

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