2008 Season Recap: Geovany Soto
There's something about Geovany Soto that I find hard to describe, but I'll try anyway. He looks like he's wearing eye liner or something. Yep, that's right, the guy who possibly might be the best Cubs catcher I've ever seen has gratuitously long eyebrows.
Also, he's quite possibly the best Cubs catcher I've ever seen.
A while back, I started penning an article that has vanished into the ether, which is a fancy way for saying that I never finished writing it. It was about how a number of players who have been essential to the Cubs were also around back in the days of Dusty Baker, only they never really had a chance to shine. Soto is one of those guys - can you believe that before he played those fateful 18 regular season games in 2007, Soto saw action in bits and pieces of 2006 and 2005? I wonder if Dusty knew what he had. Probably not.
What I do know is this - in his first full season, the Rookie of the Year award winner batted .285 with 23 homers, 86 RBI, 35 doubles, and he drew 62 walks while posting an OPS of .868. As a rookie. Is it possible that better days are ahead for Soto?
While I can't answer that question, what I do know is this:
Of all catchers in baseball, Soto was ...
- 2nd in doubles with 35 (behind only Brian McCann who had 42)
- Tied for 1st in homeruns with 23 (Brian McCann also hit 23)
- 3rd behind Brian McCann and Bengie Molina with 86 RBI (Molina had 95, McCann 87)
- 3rd in walks with 62 (Russell Martin had 90, Joe Mauer had 84)
- 4th among catchers with a .285 AVG (Mauer, McCann, and Molina were higher with .328, .301, and .292)
- 4th among catchers with an OBP of .364 (Mauer, Martin, and McCann had OBPs of .413, .385, and .373)
- 2nd among catchers with an OPS of .868 (McCann had an OPS of .896)
There are other catchers out there who are immensely talented. McCann is 24 and has hit the ball very well in his brief career, the Angels have Mike Napoli, a 27 year-old who has yet to play in more than 99 games in a season, but has averaged 15 homeruns a year, and Chris Ianetta, a 25-year-old for the Rockies who hit 18 homers in 104 games played. But while these other guys are good, Soto may receive legitimate MVP consideration in future seasons, assuming he doesn't take a Rick Wilkins-like plunge. (Wilkins, for those of you blessed with ignorance on the matter, hit 30 homeruns as a 26-year-old for the Cubs in 1993, and tho' he played in parts of 8 more seasons he never hit more than 14 homeruns, nor did he bat better than .243 while with the Astros and Giants in 1996.)
Incidentally, Soto is at this point the only All Star Cub hitter in Hendry's entire tenure who was developed entirely by the Chicago farm system. Considering all the years that Jim has been at it, and the massive number of failed prospects to come and go through the minor league turnstiles, let's give Soto credit for defying all odds.
And even more importantly, let's hope with every fiber of our beings that he'll be even better in 2009. A Soto who masters the National League is a dangerous Soto indeed.