Gregory Soto currently ranks 12th on MLB Pipeline’s list of the top Detroit Tigers prospects. The left-handed starter backed up a fine short season campaign in 2016 with a monster 2017 that saw him dominate his way through the Midwest League and then the Florida State League. According to most sources, Soto has one of the better fastballs in A-ball, and now Baseball Prospectus has weighed in to agree. In their best of the Midwest League series for 2017, Soto’s grades out as the best fastball they saw this season.
The 22-year-old Soto backed a 2.25 ERA with a 3.30 FIP across 96 innings for the West Michigan Whitecaps this year. Walks remain a real issue, but Soto punched out 28.7 percent of the batters he faced. He moved up to the Florida State League later in the season and the results were very similar at the Advanced-A level. He trimmed his walks, but his strikeouts fell a bit as well. His posted the same ERA, but his FIP was in better shape, at 2.95 over 28 innings of work.
The question with Soto is whether he can harness a breaking ball and a changeup, and remain on a starter’s track as he nears a move to the upper levels of the minors. His curveball will occasionally flash plus, so he has the ability to spin it. He still lacks consistency with the pitch, and his changeup remains a work in progress. These are all natural failings for a young arm. Without those improvements, Soto appears destined for a move to relief down the road. But he has one big advantage over others of that ilk. His fastball is a monster.
Baseball Prospectus agreed that he’ll need major improvements to his secondary offerings to start in the majors. But they raved about the fastball.
“However the Tigers will give him every chance to stay in a starter’s role due to his potential 70 grade fastball. It explodes on hitters with late life, touching 98mph and has some arm side run. The command can get loose at times, but Soto is athletic enough that it profiles as average. There were better overall pitching prospects in the Midwest League this year but none had a fastball that graded out higher than Soto’s.”
Should Soto get off to a good start, presumably with the Lakeland Flying Tigers again, a move to Double-A Erie awaits during the summer months. There Soto will find himself challenged by a much more consistently high caliber class of hitter. He won’t be able to blow them away so easily, and he’ll find a lot more opponents with the patience and discipline to lay off the high heat and erratic secondaries.
Still, everything plays off the fastball, and Soto has a great one. Should he find a more consistent handle on his curveball and changeup, Soto has the athleticism to continue to develop his command and stay on a starter’s track. If he can get either pitch to a consistent, average level, the potent fastball is probably enough to get him to the majors in a relief role.
And, should he put it all together, Soto clearly has the raw stuff to become a quality major league starter. There’s a long way to go, and many improvements needed on the way, but Gregory Soto has all the ingredients to be a very valuable pitcher for the Detroit Tigers one day.