Friday, April 24, 2009

Geovany or Giovanni?

He started as an "ok" hitting catcher in the minors when in 2007 it all came together. During his third season in Iowa he suddenly went from a .270 hitter with a good eye and not much power into a .350 stud with 26 Homers. In fact, he had more extra base hits in 2007 (60) than he did in 2005 and 2006 COMBINED (45).

Next season he made the logical step to the Majors and the torching of pitchers continued: 23 bombs, .285/.364/.504, an All-Star and a lock for the Rookie of the Year. Geovany Soto was on top of the world. He was being touted as the next great hitting catcher. And why not? He was a rookie with patience and power who gets to play half of his games at Wrigley Field. He helped vault the Cubs into contention. He finished #13 in the MVP voting. Then suddenly in 2008 he is looking more like Mario Soto at the plate.

I realize it is only a couple of weeks into the season, but Soto looks overmatched. 3 singles in 26 ABs. That's it. Now, I am not suggesting Soto is done. I am not recommending you rush out and trade him away. He is certainly not going to end the season with a sub-.200 batting average and no home runs. But he may not be the next great hitting catcher. In fact if we look a little closer at the facts we see 4 potential signs why he may not be who we thought he was:

1. He's 26. Now, I know what you're thinking. 26? He's entering his prime. He should be ready to put up some career numbers. Normally I would agree. And he still may. But 26 means he was 25 last year. He was an old rookie. Most great players (not all, just most) make it to the big leagues as a regular a lot sooner than 25. I haven't checked but I would expect the average age of Hall of Famers becoming Major League regulars is closer to 22. (excluding the obvious - Umpires, Negro Leaguers, Peter Gammons, etc)

2. Bob Hamelin. Ok, this one is similar to the one above, but "the hammer" stormed the scene in a very similar fashion in 1994 as a 26 year old rookie and smashed 24 homers in 300+ ABs. Then the league got to see him again...and again..and it just got worse and worse. Until Bob, as so many pretenders before him, finally returned the hammer moniker to it's rightful owner.

3. He's a catcher. Last season he wore down. He injured his hands in August or early September (twice if memory serves) and he never quite recovered. As a matter of fact, in his final month he hit an ordinary .241 with just 7 extra base hits in 58 at bats. Looking at his monthly stats, after a smokin' April .341/.424/.635, he seemed to get worse and worse each month until an August bounce .355/.444/.566 followed by the aforementioned lackluster Sept/Oct.

4. It is possible the league is starting to figure him out the more they see him. There are tons of examples of alleged "sophomore slumps". (See Bob Hamelin above). Fellow KC fans probably associate Kevin Seitzer with this group, but Kevin was almost as great in his 2nd season. He just lost his perceived homerun power (from 15 as a rookie to 5 as a sophomore).

In the end it wouldn't be that surprising to think Soto essentially had 8 or 9 months of amazing baseball in him (2007 and 2008) and his numbers last season were more a function of timing than a representation of actual sustainable ability. Then again, in 20 years I may be at Cooperstown witness to his induction.

And maybe its still April and I'm just making a molehill out of a mountain. But the more I think about it, I wouldn't want Geovany on my team this year any more than I'd want Mr. Ribisi. Wait until he gets hot, displays some more respectable numbers and trade him. Or see if you can convince someone to swap you Brian McCann for him right now in a change of scenery trade.


  1. Still a long way to go, but Soto still seems stuck: 50 more ABs and he has added 8 more singles and 2 doubles.

  2. Is it possible that roids are involved? I really wonder how many fluke seasons of years past can be attributed to the juice...