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Whatever Geovany Soto wants to prove is long overdue

By bullpenbrian - March 5, 2013 - 10:45 am Leave a comment.

Geovany Soto

Geovany Soto says he has something to prove this year. I feel he’s had something to prove ever since flopping after his terrific rookie season in 2008.

That was already five years ago, and the only thing Soto’s proven since is that he’s an incomplete, inconsistent player. Occasionally we might see a glimpse of ‘rookie Geo’, but mostly Soto’s progressively struggled through his prime years. Good year, bad year…meh.

Who knows what Soto’s really trying to prove this season. That he can be a starter again, that more fringe seasons are left in the tank, or that he can live up to the expectations that followed him since winning the Rookie of the Year Award?

“I didn’t hold up my end of the bargain and I want to prove to myself and prove to the Texas Rangers that I am an All-Star caliber catcher and helps us reach the World Series.”
-Soto on ESPNDallas.com

Sometimes I feel the game came too easily for Soto upon his arrival with the Cubs in late 2007, a season in which he quickly earned the trust of Sweet Lou, so much so that he started Game 2 of the NLDS vs. Arizona. Then came his fabulous rookie campaign: 

-First rookie backstop ever selected to start the All-Star Game.
-Hit two 3-R HRs against Milwaukee in one game.
-Inside-the-park HR at Houston.
-A 7 RBI game against Pittsburgh.
-Caught Carlos Zambrano’s no-hitter vs. Houston (in Milwaukee of course).
-Won the Pedrin Zorrilla Award (given to the most outstanding Puerto Rican player in the Major Leagues).
-
Won the Rookie of the Year Award in a landslide.
-Finished 13th in the MVP voting.

The big leagues must have felt like easy money for Soto. He not only made the Show but he also made a name for himself, and worse, there was zero competition standing in his way for the starting job the next season.

Maybe it was the lack of competition that led Soto to show up at spring training overweight and out of shape in 2009? Had human nature won the best of him? Was Soto content letting the 2008 season do his talking for him, perhaps thinking there was nothing else to prove?

I didn’t think so, at least not right away. Sure, I’d concede Soto was showing some immaturity, but there’s no reason he wouldn’t bounce back, right? Well, wrong.

Soto, it seemed, just couldn’t get out of his own way. Soon thereafter he made the decision to skip working out with the Cubs in favor of joining team Puerto Rico for the World Baseball Classic–a decision that wouldn’t have made such a stink if he had actually been playing. Instead, Soto was used sparingly, sitting behind Yadier Molina and Ivan Rodriguez.

By the end of spring training Soto was suffering from a sore right shoulder, an injury that would noticeably limit his throwing ability in the early part of the season. And by the end of April Soto was hitting .109/.268/.130. Perhaps a coincidence, but Soto’s perceived lack of baseball activity in the spring combined with his wretched start to the season appeared to go hand-in-hand.

But the real kicker came in June when MLB announced Soto had tested positive for marijuana during the WBC. Not normally a story worthy of overreaction–a ballplayer smoking it up in his mid 20s–but now something was becoming clear despite Soto’s foggy judgment–he was nowhere close to being fully committed to baseball.

Of course the 2009 season was a total drag for Soto–a flop-job in the wake of all the awards from the year prior. Granted, he briefly restored faith the following offseason by shedding a ton of weight and showing up to camp in tip-top shape, but it didn’t last.

Soto stayed inconsistent throughout his Cubs career fluctuating between good and bad seasons. He never came close to the player many Cubs fans, including myself, thought he would be following his rookie season.

“I can do it [improve offensively], but I think in the past I haven’t worked on my swing in the off-season the way I should have,”  said Soto to Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald.

What Soto thinks he should’ve been doing is unknown. It may mean he should’ve been working on different hitting exercises, or maybe it’s code for he simply wasn’t working at all during the offseason.

It wouldn’t be fair to accuse him of the later without knowing for certain, but it’s hard not to wonder if Soto cheated himself and the Cubs of reaching his once sky-high potential?

I doubt Soto will prove anything this season given his past performance. And unfortunately, whatever Soto is looking to prove, whether it be to fans, to baseball, or to himself…it all should have happened years ago.

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Reed Johnson, Geovany Soto Update

By bullpenbrian - September 27, 2012 - 3:05 am Leave a comment.

Reed Johnson has seen plenty of playing time since joining the Braves along with Paul Maholm on July 30th.

He’s appeared in 36-games, mainly as a late-inning defensive replacement, but has started 19-games while batting .278/.309/.333 with seven runs scored, five doubles and four RBI in 90 at-bats.

Including his 76-games spent with Chicago this year, Johnson is hitting .293,    3 HR, 20 RBI and a .745 OPS overall. His 17 pinch-hits leads the majors.

GEOVANY SOTO: A change of scenery hasn’t done much to help Soto offensively since joining the Rangers. He’s had plenty of opportunity, too. Regular backstop, Mike Napoli, was shelved for 33-games with a strained quad since early August.

In Soto’s 41-games with Texas, 36-starts, he’s batting a paltry .211 with six doubles, 5 HR, 24 RBI and a .641 OPS.

Although Soto’s experienced somewhat of a surge at the plate recently, 2 HR & 7 RBI over his last six starts, he’s batting .170 over his last 17-games.

To make matters worse, Soto’s already below-average 17.1-percent of runners caught stealing with the Cubs is down to 13.3-percent with Texas, having gunned-down just 4 of 30 base stealers.

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Who Did Cubs Get In Return For Trades?

By bullpenbrian - August 2, 2012 - 1:30 am Leave a comment.

This is a Guest Post by John Guminski. He’s a Junior at the University of Missouri majoring in Journalism.

Catcher Geovany Soto to the Texas Rangers for RHP Jacob Brigham

Steve Clevenger and Welington Castillo provided plenty of depth at the catcher’s position behind incumbent Geovany Soto entering the 2012 season.

Soto’s season long struggles at the plate, in addition to being the oldest and more expensive backstop, was also a deciding factor in shipping him to Arlington.

In return the Cubs receive Double-A right-hander Jacob Brigham. His fastball sits at 91-93 with an average curve and change. Brigham could fit into a middle relief role down the road.

Paul Maholm & Reed Johnson to Braves for pitchers Arodys Vizcaino & Jaye Chapman

This a classic example of buy low and sell high that has worked for the Cubs to bolster their farm system. Maholm’s sensational pitching of late seemed to considerably raise his trade value towards the deadline.

Johnson has been as steady as ever off the bench. His 13 pinch-hits are tied for the most in the majors and most importantly, he’s stayed healthy this season. Reed’s versatility defensively is also a plus, especially in the NL as a guy who does well spot-starting or coming in off the bench mid-game.

The return pieces for the Cubs are quite intriguing. Although Arodys Vizcaino is out for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in March, he was a top 3 prospect in a very deep Braves organization a year ago.

The Braves rushed him along last season and had slotted him into a relief role with the big club before his injury. He features a high 90’s fastball and an excellent curve with fantastic control.

If he doesn’t have the durability to continue as a starter, he certainly has the stuff to replace Carlos Marmol at closer.

Jaye Chapman is a 25-year-old reliever in Triple-A. He’s striking out 10.1 per 9 on his with a 3.52 ERA. He projects to be a middle reliever with an upside to be an impact player.

Ryan Dempster to Rangers for RHP Kyle Hendricks and 3B Christian Villanueva

The final deal was the most expected, although Texas ended up somewhat of a surprise destination for the 35-year-old Dempster.

Christian Villanueva was the only hitter acquired at the deadline by the Cubs. Seen as a sleeper around many scouts, he sports an above-average glove while hitting .285 with 10 home runs in advanced A-ball.

Right-hander Kyle Hendricks, throwing in the high 80’s, relies on his cutter and curveball as out pitches. He’s more of a throw-in to the deal, but projects as back end starter material.

In Summary

Theo and Jed concentrated their efforts to fill the need for pitching depth in the Cubs minor league system. The pair could also further increase the returns later this month with a deal for Soriano, who’s willing to waive his no-trade right to join a contender once he likely passes through waivers.

Matt Garza’s unfortunate injury, fluid build-up on his right triceps, appeared to kill the lack of interest from potential suitors at the deadline.

It appeared the Cubs had every intention of dealing Garza, but doing so will be on hold until the offseason as Garza is not an August trade candidate (no way he’ll get through waivers).

It remains to be seen whether or not the Cubs will reconsider offering Garza the long-term contract he so desires.

All things considered, the Cubs trade deadline deals were a good step in the right direction towards the massive rebuilding project.

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MLB Trade Tracker 2012

By bullpenbrian - July 31, 2012 - 7:00 am 1 comment.

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Reaction To Cubs Trades: Maholm, Johnson & Soto

By bullpenbrian - July 31, 2012 - 3:10 am Leave a comment.

I watched the Cubs 14-4 shellacking of Pittsburgh (you’re welcome Reds fans) from the bleachers Monday night. Definitely one of the most enjoyable games I’ve been to all year.

But all the excitement that came from a nine-run fifth-inning and home runs from Barney, Castro and Rizzo, quickly turned the buzz in the bleachers to trade anticipation after Reed exited the game in the fifth inning and Soto soon after.

I rushed home after the final out, quickly showered and then began digesting the Cubs latest player movement.

Quite honestly, my initial reaction to the trades was “Thank gawd. Something finally went down.” I’ll admit, I was growing more nervous with each passing hour the Cubs didn’t make a move as we close in on today’s 3pm EST non-waiver trade deadline.

PAUL MAHOLM & REED JOHNSON TRADED TO BRAVES

It turns out my gut feeling was right about Paul Maholm ending up with the Braves.

July 29 Post: “My gut feeling is Maholm ends up in Atlanta. The fact the Cubs and Braves already came to terms for Dempster, despite the outcome, tells us the Cubs like what the Braves have to offer as far as talented pitching prospects and Atlanta is clearly ready to deal.”

It’s a good fit for Paul and for Reed. It also appears what the Braves can’t make up in talent towards catching Washington in the NL East they’ll instead rely on high-character, team-first personnel the likes of both Maholm and Johnson.

There’s never anything wrong with adding a couple of high-character guys to a ball club. The Cardinals dynamic team-character largely outweighed its talent en route to winning the World Series last year.

The return pieces in the trade with Atlanta look favorable as well. You can read more about it here.

GEOVANY SOTO TRADED TO RANGERS 

In the ‘Lucky Dog’ trade of the day, Geovany Soto is changing his Cubbie blue for silver spurs. Good for him, good for the Cubs.

Soto couldn’t be in a better situation. Texas needed a quality back-up catcher and Soto is plenty good to fit the bill for a couple of months.

Despite not hitting worth a darn this season (.199/.284/.347), we know the potential is there for Soto to contribute offensively with Texas, not that the Rangers are in any need of offensive help.

But Soto’s greater value to the Rangers is his ability to call a good game and provide much needed relief down the stretch for his counter-part, Mike Napoli.

I’m happy Soto gets this opportunity to compete for a ring considering his career has basically trended downwards since his Rookie of the Year campaign in 2008.

This could very well be the last shot the 29-year-old gets, not just to play for a contender, but to remain in the majors before he hits himself out of the league.

Steve Clevenger and Welington Castillo, meanwhile, will fill out the Cubs catching corps nicely throughout the rest of the season.

It was time the Cubs moved on from the underachieving Soto, and time to find out whether Clevenger or Castillo should remain as part of the Cubs rebuilding plan.

WHAT TO EXPECT OF THE PLAYERS COMING IN RETURN

Not surprisingly, the return for Soto is minor league RHP Jacob Brigham. The 24-year-old is (5-5, 4.28 ERA) through 20 starts with Double-A Frisco.

You can read more about Brigham here.

With two trades the Cubs received three minor league hurlers. Knowing trades are never a sure thing, and neither Maholm, Johnson or Soto were of great trade value, my hope is for two of the three prospects to pan out.

It might only be one that finds his way to the Cubs 25-man roster, or none for that matter. But given the current state of the Cubs, these are calculated risks Team Theo needed to make.

Now that the ball’s rolling, it doesn’t appear the Cubs will stop here with player trades–nor should they.

The big fish of Dempster, Garza and Soriano are left to fry. And the best part is, today’s the deadline…no more waiting games.

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Cubs Missing Steve Clevenger

By bullpenbrian - May 11, 2012 - 2:00 am 1 comment.

Hot-hitting Steve Clevenger, off to a 11-for-22 start at the plate, was on the brink of becoming Dale Sveum’s everyday catcher before suffering tightness in his right side.

The injury forced Clevenger to the 15-day DL on April 30, which doesn’t expire until next Tuesday.

But even from the training table Clevenger appears to have the upper hand on Geovany Soto, whose season-long slump has dropped his batting average to .152, ranking 29th among major league back stoppers.

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Same Frustrations, Same Cubs?

By bullpenbrian - April 15, 2012 - 6:00 pm Leave a comment.

One of my greater frustrations with the Cubs last season was its inability to win three in-a-row. A league worst 134 fielding errors was another, but I digress.

It took Mike Quade’s squad until late July, 102 games into the season, before they finally managed the smallest of winning streaks–nearly four full months removed from Opening Day.

More stunning, however, was the perceived lack of urgency to string together wins. Ten times prior the Cubs were in position to roll a Turkey, but failed on each occasion. Not a trace of killer instinct.

In fact, when Geovany Soto was asked in July if winning three in a row was mentally important for the Cubs he responded “Not really.”

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Cubs Spring Stats Hot & Cold

By bullpenbrian - March 16, 2012 - 1:01 am Leave a comment.

 

Hot Spring Batters:

Average

Extra Base Hits

RBI

A. Soriano

.450

7 (4 HR)

6

J. Mather

.444

3

6

D. Barney

.421

4

7

 

Cold Spring Batters:

Average

Extra Base Hits

RBI

G. Soto

.200

x

x

D. DeJesus

.167

2

x

J. Vitters

.154

2

2

 

Hot Spring Pitchers:

Record

Games

Innings

ERA

R. Lopez

(0-0)

3

7.0

2.57

J. Samardzija

(1-0)

2

6.0

3.00

L. Castillo

(0-0)

4

5.0

1.80

 

Cold Spring Pitchers:

Record

Games

Innings

ERA

M. Garza

(1-1)

2

3.1

16.20

C. Marmol

(1-1)

4

3.2

17.80

T. Wood

(1-1)

2

2.2

20.25

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Cubs Wish – The Real Geo

By bullpenbrian - January 31, 2012 - 2:04 am 2 comments.

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Cubs Cuckoo For Coco Puffs!

By bullpenbrian - December 15, 2011 - 2:01 am Leave a comment.

The rumored interest of the Cubs in former Red Sox Coco Crisp and Jason Varitek could be telling of potential trades on the horizon.

A deal for Crisp would reaffirm the speculation Alfonso Soriano is headed out of town via trade, and a Varitek signing could mean Geovany Soto has played his last game as a Cub.

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