TRENTON – Just hours after the Thunder clinched their first division title in five years, second baseman Nick Solak could be found on Sunday afternoon just beyond the lip of the infield that meets the grass in shallow right field at ARM & HAMMER Park. The Yankees 2016 second-round draft selection out of Louisville University is taking dozens of ground balls and working rigorously on his defense with coach Lino Diaz. This scene has become routine since Solak was promoted to Trenton on August 1 from High-A Tampa.
A converted college outfielder who only began playing second base during his junior season, Solak knows that he must sure up that side of his game if he wants to eventually become a viable option for the big league club in the near future. In his first full-season as a professional ball player, Solak has committed 15 errors in 114 games in 2017.
“I think my defense has gotten better; it has come a long way,” Solak said. “I have really been working with Lino [Diaz] since coming up and we have just been putting in a lot of infield work to try and get better.”
One scout in attendance for Trenton’s series finale with Richmond on Sunday evening who has seen Solak on multiple occasions this season says that he has witnessed a great maturity on defense from when he saw him earlier in the campaign.
“He has good range and can make all of the routine plays that a guy at second should make,” the scout said. “He has good reads and charges the ball well.”
The organization promoted Solak following the completion of their blockbuster trade deadline deal with Oakland which vacated an infield spot that was occupied by Jorge Mateo. In 22 games with Trenton, the 22-year old is slashing .310/.378/.494 with two homers and eight RBI while primarily serving as the second hitter in the order.
Listed at 5’11” and 175-pounds, Solak is not an imposing figure in the batters box, but he has an advanced understanding of the strike-zone and can barrel the ball well to all fields. While the power tool is not something Solak is known for, he is happy with how it has developed in his first full-season.”
“He has got that knack that is hard to teach sometimes, it really is,” said Thunder Manager Bobby Mitchell. “He obviously sees the ball really well, barreling up the ball consistently.”
“The power is also something that I think I have improved on,” said Solak. “It has finally started to come. I knew I had it in there somewhere.”
Prior to the promotion, Solak was one of the premiere hitters in the Florida State League where he was slashing .301/.397/.460 with 10 homers, 44 RBI and 13 stolen bases with Tampa. The Yankees ninth ranked prospect according to MLB.com has fit in perfectly with a Thunder group that he spent considerable time with earlier in the season.
“Since I have been here it has been a lot of fun,” said Solak. “I am surrounded by a really talented ball club with a lot of good players. A lot of the guys that are here are guys that I have played with earlier this season and it really helps coming to a team that has been locked in all year long.”
As a polished college bat from a premiere college program, Solak hit .321 with short-season Staten Island last summer and skipped Low-A completely before the year began. While it would appear as though Solak is the prototypical fast-track player, he admits that he does not let that notion affect the way he goes about his business.
“It’s not something that I think much about,” Solak said. “Going into the season or even going into spring training, I try to not really set any type of expectations like that on myself. I just go out there and play my type of game and let the rest take care of itself.”
With a postseason match-up with Binghamton on the docket, Solak figures to be a vital cog in what Mitchell hopes will be a championship run.
“Bobby [Mitchell] just loves to win and it is fun to play for a guy with that attitude,” said Solak. “I played for Jay Bell down in Tampa and he was the same exact way. It would be fun to finish this year by getting a ring.”
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