The first player up in my “Around the horn” discussion is the catcher for your Chicago Cubs, Geovany Soto. After last years disappointing season, many fans are wondering just what they can expect out of Soto. Is he the player that ran rampant in the minor leagues in 2007? The same player who played so well when he was called up that he won he took over the starting catching duties for the playoffs that year? Is Soto the player who played well enough to win the starting job at the 2008 All Star game and eventually the rookie of the year award? Or is he the same player who had been an afterthought for many Cub fans during his minor league career before his 2007 awakening. Is what we saw in 2009 what Soto truly is?
In his breakout season in 2007, with 110 games played, Soto had a total of 36 home runs and 101 RBI with a batting average of .353 for the Triple A Cubs. In 2008, Soto continued his remarkable play from the previous season by hitting 23 home runs and driving in 86 RBI while hitting .285. However, his 2009 stat line almost mirrored 2004. Before his breakout 2007 campaign, his career highs in home runs was nine, and his career high in RBI was 48, both came in 2004 with a .271 batting average in 104 games played. Last year Soto only hit 11 home runs and 47 RBI, all with a .218 batting average.
Soto’s disappointing 2009 season started off with him reporting to camp overweight, and then missing significant time in Spring Training due to the World Baseball Classic. He also injured his shoulder early on in the season. Put all of those factors together and combine then with the high expectations that were placed on him. Everything came together, and helped Soto give a tremendously disappointing season. At the end of the season, Soto admitted that he had let his success go to his head, and had vowed to get back into shape for the 2010 season. Thus far, he has lived up to his promise, as he has lost 40 pounds. But will that be enough to help him rebound back into what we saw in 2008?
Personally, I feel that the true Soto is somewhere between the good Soto and the bad Soto. I don’t believe that he is as good as he looked in 2007 and 2008, but he also isn’t as bad as he was in 2009. If he is, the Cubs are in for a world of hurt. While his expectations will not be quite as high as they were last year, their will still be an expectation for him to be able to contribute at an acceptable level to the 2010 offense. With the addition of Marlon Byrd, and the pronouncement that Alfonso Soriano will be batting in the six hole, Soto will land himself in the seventh slot in the bating order. There will be less pressure on him to be one of the main contributors, which should lead him into delivering better stats.
My predicition for Soto next year, is for him to significantly raise his batting average up from the .218 that he gave us last year, while giving us a minimal raise in both home run and the RBI category. He should be able to bring his average up to the .270 range, and I would hope that he will at least give the team at least the 11 home runs we saw from him in 2009, but somewhere closer to 20 bombs would be nice. As far as the RBI total goes, with Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, Byrd and Soriano all in front of him, his RBI chances would hopefully be limited. That being said, I would hope that he would be able to drive in closer to the 60-70 RBI range. These would be acceptable numbers from Soto, and very welcomed compared to what we saw from him last year. At very worst, I would expect him to do no worse than he did in the minors in the year 2004. Though at 27 years of age, he should be entering his prime, and this season will go a long way in showing if the Cubs can depend on him in 2011 and beyond. If he delivers another season like he did in 2009, they obviously can not.