Then & Now is a weekly feature at Indians Prospect Insider during the offseason that takes a look at a prospect’s past and present while also offering a possible glimpse into the prospect’s future.
There are few starting pitchers in the Cleveland Indians system with more promise than left-handed starter Giovanni Soto.
Acquired by the Indians from the Detroit Tigers midway through the 2010 season, Soto has steadily rose through the system and is currently one of the more seasoned pitchers in the upper levels of the Indians system.
The 21-year-old Soto recently completed a full season at the Double-A level, and some even believe that he could help out the Major League club right now, at least in a bullpen role.
Soto is probably best known for his cutter, which is a plus offering and could potentially punch his ticket to the Major Leagues. Even though Soto only eclipses 90 mph on a good day, his cutter is practically unhittable when it’s on.
From day one, Soto has had a solid minor league career, and it’s a career that will also probably ultimately end with him earning a spot on the Indians’ Major League roster.
Soto was originally drafted by the Detroit Tigers out of Advanced Central College, Carolina, PR in the 21st Round of the 2009 MLB Draft. He made his debut in the GCL that summer and went 4-0 with a 1.18 ERA in 45 2/3 innings with the GCL Tigers.
Soto was so impressive that the Tigers decided to push him to the Single-A level the next season instead of having him spend some time at the team’s short-season affiliate. Soto quickly proved that he was more than capable of holding his own against the steeper competition.
In 16 starts with Single-A West Michigan, Soto went 6-6 with a 2.93 ERA in 82 2/3 innings of work. He also posted some impressive strikeout numbers (8.3 K/9).
Soto had proven that he was an asset, though the Tigers viewed him as an expendable asset. As the Tigers were attempting to make a playoff push, they decided to move Soto in an attempt to bolster their ballclub. The Tigers traded Soto in July to the Indians in exchange for shortstop Jhonny Peralta.
After being acquired by the Indians, Soto continued to impress as he posted a 3.77 ERA in six starts and 31 innings with Single-A Lake County.
The 2011 season was somewhat of a mixed bag for Soto as there were both positives and negatives. Unfortunately, Soto’s small frame (6-foot-3-inches, 180 pounds) makes him susceptible to injuries, and the injury bug bit hard in 2011.
Soto missed a little over three months midway through the season because of elbow neuritis. Though, when healthy, Soto was again impressive.
In 69 innings with both the AZL Indians and High-A Kinston, Soto went 4-4 with a 3.23 ERA and struck out nine batters per nine innings.
Since he had dealt with injuries during the 2011 season and played as a 20-year-old for much of the season, many expected that Soto would open the 2012 season back in the rotation at the High-A level, this time with the team’s new affiliate, the Carolina Mudcats.
However, in a surprising move, the Indians decided to have Soto start the 2012 season as a member of Akron’s rotation.
Soto spent the entire 2012 season with the Aeros. Even as a 21-year-old in an advanced league, Soto impressed and helped show why so many people within the organization are high on him.
In 121 1/3 innings of work and 22 starts, Soto had a 3.93 ERA and struck out 100 batters. His performance all season was nice, but Soto was most impressive on July 15 when he threw a no-hitter against the Altoona Curve.
His dominant performance helped illustrate the potential that Soto possesses. Also, the performance was a reminder that the Indians were right to remain committed to Soto as a starter. While he may eventually have a future as a left-handed reliever, his no-hitter combined with his full season performance showed why he may translate into a potential middle-of-the-rotation Major League starting pitcher.
Soto’s regular season success also seemed to help him transition nicely into the Puerto Rican Winter League where the left-hander is currently part of Gigantes de Carolina’s bullpen.
Aside from allowing two earned runs in his second appearance in the league, Soto has been outstanding and has now pitched 13 2/3 straight innings of scoreless relief. Over that span, Soto has also struck out 16 and walked only four batters.
While Soto’s 2012 regular season performance seems to suggest that the Indians should remain committed to him as a starter, his current performance in the PWL shows his potential as reliever.
While the best role for Soto may still be unknown, one thing is for sure. His performances in 2012 do seem to at least provide evidence that he does have a Major League future.
While Soto undoubtedly does have a strong chance of making and ultimately staying in the Major Leagues, it is hard to determine what role Soto would be best suited for.
It makes sense for him to continue to progress as a starter, but another argument can be made.
With the recent loss of Rafael Perez and the trade of Tony Sipp, the Indians are suddenly quite thin in their bullpen and in need of some left-handed relief pitching. The thought is that Soto may already be able to fill that role.
As stated previously, his cutter is practically an unhittable offering, and Soto has already had success at the Double-A level as a starter. While he is still a ways away from being able to start in the Majors, he could probably immediately come in and assist as a reliever.
Needless to say, the 2013 season will be key in determining what lies ahead for Soto. The left-hander will likely start back in Akron though he could be pushed and start as a member of the rotation at Triple-A Columbus.
Also, at this point, it may be too early to draw conclusions in regard to whether Soto will ultimately be a starter or reliever. Let’s leave it what it is: Soto is a promising pitching prospect in the upper levels of the Tribe’s system. Few current Indians prospects can stake such a claim, so hopefully Soto makes that next step and goes from promising prospect to promising Major League player.
Previous Then & Now profiles:
- Dec. 18, 2012: Thomas Neal
- Dec. 11, 2012: Chris McGuiness
- Dec. 8, 2012: Trey Haley
- Nov. 27, 2012: Adam Abraham
- Nov. 20, 2012: Jesus Aguilar
- Nov. 15, 2012: Cord Phelps
- Nov. 6, 2012: Tim Fedroff
- Nov. 2, 2012: T.J. McFarland
- Oct. 27, 2012: Chen-Hsiu Chen
- Oct. 16, 2012: Danny Salazar
- Oct. 10, 2012: Paolo Espino
- Oct. 5, 2012: Jared Goedert
- Sept. 24, 2012: Hector Rondon
- Sept. 17, 2012: Nick Weglarz