Following Sunday’s victory over the Chicago White Sox, the Detroit Tigers announced that southpaw fireballer Gregory Soto will represent the team in the 2021 MLB All-Star Game. This will be the 26-year-old Soto’s first appearance in the mid-summer classic, and the third straight season the Tigers have been represented by a reliever. The 2021 MLB All-Star Game will be held on Tuesday, July 13, at Coors Field in Denver, Colorado.
For Soto, this marks a long climb from a starter with power stuff and terrible control in the Tigers farm system, to one of the more terrifying relief arms in baseball for hitters. Signed by the Tigers as a 17-year-old out of the Dominican Republic, Soto spent six seasons as a starting pitcher as he advanced from the rookie levels to the Single-A and High-A levels. That’s a low time to spend in the lower levels with that stuff, and the Tigers finally gave in and converted him to relief in 2019.
Former Tigers pitching coach Rick Anderson suggested moving to a slide step in 2020, and while Soto continues to vary between a small leg kick and the slide step, that transition marked the move that turned him into a dominant relief pitcher. It hasn’t solved all his control issues, but while he’s still capable of a wild outing, that change allowed him to regain his timing much faster within an outing. Add to that tweaks that turned his low-80’s slurve into a true power slider at 89-90 mph, and the Tigers finally had a real weapon on their hands.
Soto still battles a case of the wilds here and there, but the combination of strikeout stuff and a diabolical sinker that touches 100 mph and is rarely hit hard, particularly in the air, adds up to one of the better power lefties in the game coming out of the Tigers bullpen.
Soto had a rough go on Sunday, allowing a three-run homer to Jose Abreu and forcing manager A.J. Hinch to turn to Jose Cisnero to close out the Chicago White Sox. It was just the third long ball Soto has allowed in 33.2 innings this season. Overall, he now holds a 2.94 ERA, with a 3.72 FIP, and has been worth 0.5 fWAR to date.
The last two Tigers All-Star Game representatives were relievers Shane Greene in 2019, and Joe Jiménez in 2018.