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Minor League Matters Prospect Profile: Giovany Soto

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In Tuesday's minor league recap thread, commenter cherub_daemon pointed out that I confused the starting pitcher for West Michigan- instead of putting Giovany Soto, the guy who pitched a 7 inning complete game, I put Ramon Lebron, another young flamethrower. Oops. Not the first mistake I've made, and not the last. But it got me thinking about both these kids and their abilities on the mound. So as penance for confusing the two, I've decided to do Prospect Profiles on these guys. Today we'll start with Giovany Soto.

Here's what I wrote about Soto in the LHP Depth Chart:

Okay, so the sample [Soto's 2009 statistics] is tiny and from the rookie leagues. That makes the numbers really weak. But if I was inclined to trust them, I'd love them. Soto's drawing groundballs and striking out a ton, and he seems to have continued that into his first two starts at West Michigan which is awesome. There doesn't seem to be much on his stuff, though I've heard it was only worth a late round selection. Still, keep your eye on this one. He seems to have at least some talent, and he's young and tiny, which means he's got room to fill out (which should improve his stuff).

Soto was born on May 18, 1991, making 2010 his 19 year old season (First Inning and Baseball Reference confirm). He was drafted in 2008 by the Phillies in the 48th round of the First Year Player Draft and did not sign. The Tigers selected him in the 19th round of the 2009 Draft, and he decided to sign. Kevin Goldstein at Baseball Prospectus featured him in one of his scouting handbook, where he notes his uninspiring stuff- a fastball that sits in the mid to upper 80's and a slider, curve and change that, in the words of Goldstein's scout, aren't very good right now. But the good part is that Soto is a tiny guy: 6'3" and only 155 pounds. Because of this and his youth, there's tons of room to project velocity, and he's got time to improve the slider, curve and changeup.

Statistically, Soto is awesome, with the caveat that we are dealing with relatively small sample sizes. His 2009 numbers were really impressive: 45.2 IP, 2.87 FIP, 37/20 K/BB, and a 54% GB rate. I kind of wrote this off as a fluke in the depth chart- sure they look good, but it's 45 innings in rookie ball. Luckily, we now have a slightly bigger and more awesome sample to look at. In 53.1 innings at Lo-A West Michigan (again SSS warning), Soto has a FIP of 3.01 (compared to his ERA of 1.81) and 48 strikeouts to only 14 walks- meaning that he's dropped one walk off per 9 while adding one strikeout per 9. He's also only allowed 2 home runs, and has a Porcello-esque groundball percentage of 57%. Even bearing in mind the caveats I've provided, those are awesome numbers for a 19 year old. They don't quite match the scouting report, which confuses me- another reason I'd kill to get to West Michigan sometime this year. The only thing that I can think that explains it is that Soto has a good mind for pitching, which explains how a 19 year old can dominate a league of 20-21 year olds with mediocre stuff.

To be honest, I'm not sure what to make of Soto quite yet. There's not enough scouting data on him, the numbers are good but in limited samples so I feel bad relying on them and he has failed to elicit a ton of buzz on major prospect websites (BA had him on their Tigers depth chart, but not ranked). Despite all that, Soto is, at least to me, a deep, deep sleeper, and I could see him erupting on the Tigers in 2011 with a breakthrough campaign. I could also see him flailing around the minors for 5 years or flaming out due to injury. But right now, I'm keeping my eye on Soto. And you should too.