Catcher Profile: Geovany Soto

Bob Levey

The former Rookie of the Year fell on hard times in 2012, but he's back to being a starting backstop in 2014. Will fantasy relevance come along?

In 2012, Geovany Soto hit .198/.270/.343. It was the worst season of his career, it relegated him to a backup role, and it signified the end of his fantasy relevance. He also had a BABIP of .222.

I mean, sometimes it really is that simple.

His fall from grace was pretty dramatic. In 2010, when the Indians traded Jhonny Peralta to the Tigers for Giovanni Soto, I told my buddy Sean (a die-hard Cubs fan) that "the Indians traded for Giovanni Soto," just to mess with him, and he flipped out on me. Two years later, I told him that the Rangers had traded for Geovany Soto, and Sean just gave me a "so?"

(Also, it's weird that there are two guys with those names and different spellings. But I digress.)

It's pretty hard to find bright marks from that 2012 season for Soto. He split the season between Chicago and Texas, and posted the lowest walk rate of his career, the worst ISO, the lowest of every rate stat I could find except strikeout percentage. His wRC+ was 62. Even his defensive ratings went in the tank. The Rangers brought in A.J. Pierzynski to start in 2013, leaving Soto as the backup.

But a funny thing happened. In admittedly limited playing time (54 games, 184 plate appearances, so you'd be forgiven for not having noticed), Soto was ... well, decent last year. He wasn't a world-beater by any means, but he put up a .328 on-base percentage and a .466 slugging, with nine home runs, nearly equaling his 2012 total in basically half the chances.

No, it wasn't perfect, but it was enough that the Rangers decided to let Pierzynski leave as a free agent and install Soto as the starter for 2014. (Yes, the team brought in J.P. Arencibia on Dec. 10, but he's going to be the backup for the beginning of the season, and considering his .227 OBP last year and his .258 career, it's hard to make the argument he's a superior option to Soto.)

I'll grant that this Rangers lineup isn't the uber-formidable group it once was in the Gonzalez-Rodriguez-Rodriguez-Palmeiro-Hamilton-whoever days if you'll grant that a lineup with Choo, Fielder, Beltre, and Rios is still in the upper tier of MLB lineups. Also, while the team's ballpark actually graded out as a slight pitchers' park in 2013, I think we'll all need more evidence before we start comparing Rangers Ballpark in Arlington with Chavez Ravine. Basically, Soto enters 2014 as the starting catcher on a team that promises to score all sorts of bunches of runs. The opportunities will be there.

Recall my lede. Soto's BABIP in 2012 was .222, leaving him with a .198/.290/.343 slash line and a 63 OPS+. Even with that, his career OPS+ is 102. It hasn't been the epitome of consistency (OPS+'s of, lowest to highest, 63, 80, 96, 114, 119, and 135 in his six seasons), but Soto has been a relevant player at worst, and a superior offensive catcher at his peak.

In our consensus catcher rankings, Soto came in at 33rd, behind, among others, Arencibia, his backup. I can only speak for me, but I had him at 18th, ahead of Yan Gomes, ahead of Evan Gattis, ahead of Alex Avila. He'll likely never live up to his promise as the 2008 Rookie of the Year, but Soto has a job again as a starting catcher, he's plying his trade in a good lineup, and he cannot possibly be as bad as he was in 2012. Isn't that enough?

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