Rookies to Look For: Neftali Soto

Recently the Cincinnati Reds shipped off first base prospect Yonder Alonso in a trade to acquire pitcher Mat Latos. With All-Star first baseman Joey Votto already entrenched in Cincy, Alonso was blocked and became a viable piece of trade bait. But Alonzo wasn’t just blocked from his approach to the Majors, he was being pushed from behind as well. First baseman Neftali Soto just completed his first full season at Double-A and was knocking on the door of Triple-A, where Alonzo has been playing first.

There’s no doubt that Soto’s bat is his calling card. More specifically, his power, as he crushed 31 home runs last season in the minors. He’s a definite power source that has turned it on as he has risen through the minors and learned to hit to opposite field. There are some doubts about his ability to hit in the high minors and more notably in the majors though. He’s still learning how to hit, but his patience at the plate has been paltry all along. Except for a couple lower outliers, his walk rate has been relatively steady in the 5.5-6.0% range, not a good indicator of future success.

Defensively, it’s an uglier picture. He’s went from shortstop, to third, to catcher, and now first base. According to the reports I have read, he’s adequate at first base at best. That type of response makes you wonder about the look on scouts faces when they watched him field at short. In Neftali’s defense though, he only 18 when he was drafted and has grown significantly since.

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As for his future, I can see him as a cheap replacement at first base when Joey Votto is either shipped out of town via trade or leaves on his own accord via free agency. Whether he can last with his lack of plate discipline is a another question that can only really be answered in time. He still has time to refine his eye at the plate, but at this point I see him as more of a Four-A hitter.

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