As the 2012 season approaches, Cubbies Crib is profiling each and every member of the Cubs forty man roster. Today, we are talking about Geovany Soto.
The starting catcher is one of the few home grown position player talents of the last regime that has actually been able to stick at the Major League level and be productive. However, the running joke (whether you find it funny or not) is that for some reason so far, he has not been able to put together back to back solid full seasons. In particular, his batting average and OBP have fluctuated back and forth over the last four seasons.
The 2011 season continued that consistent inconsistent trend if you will. Soto registered a Carlos Pena like .228 average while posting a career low .310 OBP. However, unlike 2009, his home run power number did not take a dip. A reason for future concern was the 124 strikeouts he tallied, a career high. As far as his duties behind the plate, his fielding percentage also hit a career low at .987. The biggest criticism of his defense revolved around his 22% of runner caught stealing success rate in 2010. He had put some extra work into that area in Spring 2011, and was able to bump that percentage up to 30% despite still allowing 85 stolen bases. Granted Soto will never be confused for Yadier Molina in the defense and game calling areas of the position, he was still in the upper tier of catching options around the National League.
To predict that Soto will have a 2012 season in which we see honest consistency compared to his career so far would sound like a cop out. But if you revisit the numbers discussed above, you will see that the numbers point to the catcher providing production that falls squarely in between his career highs and lows. A stat line of 20 home runs and 65+ RBI is not out of the question based on his trends, and the fact that a line up that is now missing boppers Aramis Ramirez and Pena will open the door for Soto to possibly seize a run producer line up spot at clean up or fifth. It would also not be out of the question to see him hit at a .275 clip while boasting a .375 OBP. The key will be plate discipline to keep the strikeout total under 100 for the season, which in turn is bound to bump his walk total up from a weak 45 free passes in 2011.
Depending on how quickly prospects and back up candidates Welington Castillo and Steve Clevenger come along, another topic to keep an eye on is the possibility of seeing a productive Soto dealt by the July trade deadline to a contender. With viable replacements behind him, Soto would allow the new front office to trade from a position of strength to further stockpile the farm system they are continuing to look to add to.