Geovany Soto is Set to Break Out, Again.
By Lee Stitzel
Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports
Geovany Soto burst onto the baseball scene in 2008 with an outstanding rookie campaign. He blasted 23 homeruns, had a .364 OBP and a 120 wRC+.
Before we discuss Soto’s career production, here is a quick reminder about wRC+. Weighted Runs Created+ (wRC+) takes into account all facets of offensive production. 100 wRC+ is league average and a given wRC+ can be evaluated as a percentage difference from average. Thus, Soto’s 120 wRC+ in 2008 was 20% better than the average offensive production.
Soto profiled as a top flight offensive catcher who could hit for power and still get on base. He hauled in the rookie of the year in 2008 and it was well deserved. Soto scuffled in 2009 with an 81 wRC+ but bounced back well with a 137 wRC+ in 2010. In 2011 Soto was roughly average (98 wRC+) but struggled mightily in 2012, which was when the Texas Rangers acquired him at the trade dead line. In 2012 Soto had an awful 64 wRC+ between the two teams.
Soto has always had upside and has, at times, flashed some great production. Last year, his first full year with Texas, he had only 184 plate appearances but he provided a solid 114 wRC+. Perhaps Soto will not have the same success over a larger sample but Soto’s small 2013 sample production was not driven by the same kind of process most platoon players’ production is. Many players can have good numbers over a small sample because a manager selects match ups that are more favorable for the player, such as hitting against opposite handed pitching or avoiding top flight starters. Platoon players get more frequent at bats against middle relievers which inflates their averages relative to starting or full time players. This was not the main driver behind Soto’s splits. Soto was the backup catcher and mostly caught Yu Darvish last year. Because of this, Soto did face many starters and did not disproportionately face left handed pitchers. Soto had 60 plate appearances against lefties and only hit for a .273 OBP and a 75 wRC+. On the other hand, (pun intended) Soto took 118 plate appearances against righties and absolutely mashed. He tuned up righties for a 136 wRC+, a .359 OBP and 6 homeruns.
Soto hit 9 homeruns with only 184 plate appearances so, if we believe that his selective use did not drive his production, Soto might have been able to hit 20 or 25 homeruns with 500+ plate appearances. Catchers do not usually get quite the same amount of appearances that regular hitters do but A.J. Pierzynski took 529 plate appearances in 2013.
Leaving advanced statistics aside, Geovany also came up with some clutch hits late in games. We cannot forget his walk off against the Angels; the first of the three straight walk offs against Anaheim. It seemed that he had many big extra base hits late in games last year.
Geovany Soto needs to step up in 2013, J. P. Arencibia can be a nice backup catcher in 2014 but realistically Arencibia appears to be limited offensively even though he has power to dream on. Arencibia was not good last year. He hit below .200 (.194) and had a 57 wRC+.
Soto has the tools to be an excellent hitter again. I believe he can have an excellent year taking the bulk of the plate appearances as the starting catcher. Soto has the tools and the kind of upside to be a serviceable defender and an above average hitter. I look forward to seeing Soto recapture his offensive mojo this year.