The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, September 07, 2021 8:50 pm

Little on IL; Low-A outfielder promoted to Fort Wayne

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

One week after the Padres promoted three of Low-A Lake Elsinore's best players to Fort Wayne, San Diego kept the late-season pipeline going, sending outfielder Angel Solarte from the Storm to the TinCaps late last week.

Solarte was slated to make his Fort Wayne debut tonight against the Lansing Lugnuts, starting in left field and batting sixth. The game was rained out, however, and Solarte will have to wait until at least Wednesday, when the teams will play a doubleheader, to see the field in High-A for the first time. Along with the three players that came up from Lake Elsinore in late August, Solarte made four players in Fort Wayne's lineup tonight that are 20 years old or younger.

The 20-year-old outfielder is the No. 39 prospect in the Fort Wayne farm system according to Fangraphs, whose prospect expert, Eric Longenhagen, described Solarte this way:

"It’s not as if he’s without physical ability, but Solarte is an instincts-first player. He has feel for contact and for playing center field, where I think he could be an impact defender."

The 5-foot-11 Solarte is 155 pounds and does not have a lot of power at this point in his career: he hit only two home runs in 67 games at Low-A. But he did hit well overall at Lake Elsinore, batting .306 with a .351 OBP and a passable .407 slugging percentage that was helped along by 17 doubles. Solarte doesn't walk much, but he has terrific speed and stole 11 bases at the lower level, getting caught only three times. As Longenhagen wrote, he has the defensive chops to play center, but that position is patrolled by 2020 No. 8 overall pick Robert Hassell III, so Solarte will play mostly in left with the TinCaps. That gives Fort Wayne one of the better defensive outfields in the league, especially with Tirso Ornelas possessing a very good arm (if not overwhelming range) in right.

The TinCaps needed Solarte (or another outfielder) on the roster because Fort Wayne outfielder Grant Little has been placed on the 7-day Injured List. Little hasn't played since Aug. 28, when he jammed his finger sliding into second on a stolen-base attempt. He was able to play in the field after the injury, but TinCaps hitting coach Jonathan Mathews, who was the acting manager that night against the Dayton Dragons, said Little was unable to grip a bat. 

It was an unlucky time for Little to get hurt, because he had been in the midst of a very good stretch at the plate. He was working on a 13-game on-base streak and he batted .304 with a .430 OBP in August. Little has already been out for more than seven days, so he could theoretically return at any time, but with Solarte's call-up, it seems somewhat unlikely he'll be back this year. If he is finished for the season, Little has likely done enough, assuming spring training goes well in 2022, to start next season at Double-A.

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