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2010 Projections: Why You Should Buy Low on Geovany Soto

Sat, Mar 13, 2010

Player Projections

Photo courtesy of Yasuo Hirao

Geovany Soto’s 2009 struggles left many fantasy owners searching for a new catcher by mid May. Fortunately, everything points to a bounce back season for the Cubs’ catcher.

Following the 2007 season which saw him hit 26 HRs, collect 109 RBI and post a .353 batting clip for Triple-A Iowa, Soto won N.L. Rookie of the Year honors in 2008, blasting 23 HRs, while adding 86 RBI and a .285 batting average, proving his minor league success was no fluke.

Soto’s sophomore season was doomed from the start, as a shoulder injury limited him early in the spring. Instead of traveling with the Cubs in spring training, Soto backed up Ivan Rodriguez on Puerto Rico’s World Baseball Classic team, preventing him from getting regular playing time.

When it finally seemed like Soto was getting back on track in June, word spread that he had failed a drug test during the World Baseball Classic. The Cubs’ backstop finished 2009 with 11 HRs, 47 RBI and an embarrasing .218 batting average in just 331 at-bats.

Despite these struggles, fantasy owners should be buying low on the 27-year-old Soto - while they still can.

Soto actually increased his walk rate from 11.0 percent in 2008 to 12.9 percent in 2009. He even decreased his strikeout rate, from 24.5 percent during his rookie campaign to 23.3 percent last year. His contact rate increased from 74.7 percent in ’08, to 78.3 percent in his sophomore season. Soto’s keen eye is evident in his improved o-swing (percentage of pitches a batter swings at outside the strike zone) as well. After posting an o-swing rate of 20.1 percent in ’08, he lowered that total to 17.8 percent last season.

Judging by these totals, (and his .246 BABIP) Soto’s 2009 disaster season can be chalked up mostly to pure dumb luck.

Looking forward to 2010, here’s what you need to know: Soto arrived to Cubs camp 40 pounds lighter than last year. Given 500 at-bats, the former 11th round pick should approach 20 HRs and a .270 average, catapulting him back into top-five catcher territory.

FBI Forecast: 500 at-bats, 60 runs, 20 HRs, 80 RBI, .270 batting average

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  • Kirk

    In your article, you say, “Soto won N.L. Rookie of the Year honors in 2008, blasting 23 HRs, while adding 86 RBI and a .285 batting average, proving his minor league success was no fluke.”

    I can’t really agree that Soto has had a lot of minor league success. I can’t really say having one really good season in the minors and having six really bad/sub par seasons can be called minor league success.

    I know he had a monster year in 2007, but from 2001 to 2006, there was very little known about Soto, he wasn’t regarded as a top prospect.

    His best overall season during that span from 01′ to 06′ was in 2004 at Double-A, when he put up a .271 average, nine home runs, 48 runs batted in and 47 runs scored.

    He owned a .262 batting average and only hit 25 home runs in 1,574 at bats over his first six years in the minor leagues. That comes out to one home run every 63 at bats. And that comes out to eight home runs per 500 at bats over the first six years of his minor league career.

    He never reached double-digit home runs in any single season from 2001 to 2006. He actually only hit seven or more home runs in one season over that span.

    I think his average should bounce back from last season, so his power numbers might slightly increase, but I don’t expect him to come close to a repeat of his terrific 08′ season. I think he will be somewhere around a .260 avg, 15 hr and 60 rbi, which in my mind puts him in the middle tier of catchers. Saying he could be a top 5 catcher might be too high of hopes, I don’t think last season was just a fluke, he doesn’t have as great of a minor league track record as most people tend to think.

  • Nick Kappel

    Hey Kirk, thanks for stopping by.

    I think you’re reading a bit too far into my words. Does 26 HRs, 109 RBI, and a .353 average in one season at Triple-A qualify as minor league success? You bet it does. Does that infer he was just as good in each season prior? I don’t think so.

    Minor league stats don’t always indicate a player’s potential, especially when they’re young. The low levels of the minors are in place for players to develop, not to hit 30 HRs every year.

    You could say Soto’s 2007 season in Triple-A was a fluke, because nothing he had done previous indicated a spike in production. When he took those numbers to the next level in 2008, however, he proved he’s capable of being a top-five catcher.

    Maybe he’s not as good as 2008 suggested, but like you said, he’s not as bad as he was last year either. He should be somewhere in between in 2010, and I still believe that leaves the possibility to be a top-five catcher.

    Thanks again for the comment, feel free to continue to challenge the Insiders’ projections.

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