The Detroit Tigers’ Gregory Soto has a power arm and upside at the age of 25. Still, Soto has work to do to secure a bullpen spot for Opening Day.
With all the arms that are rising up in the system, it is easy to forget that Gregory Soto was named the Detroit Tigers minor league pitcher of the year twice. Rising through the system as a starter until the second half of the 2019 season in which he was exclusive to the bullpen after July, Soto got off to a rocky start at the beginning of last year. He started the season suspended for “Conduct Detrimental or Prejudicial to Baseball” and did not make his first appearance until May 11th. Soto’s role is still undefined heading to 2020 but let’s take a look at what makes him a power arm.
How Do His Pitches Stack up?
Soto throws four pitches. A sinker, four-seam fastball, slider, and change-up. His main two pitches in 2019 were his slider and sinker. He used his slider as his put-away pitch at a whiff percentage of 36%. What is concerning about his slider and sinker is the vertical and horizontal movement of pitches. The vertical movement of his sinker at 17.2 ranked him 212th among pitchers. For the horizontal movement of his pitches, his ball moves 13 inches away from a right-handed batter and drops 17 inches. The league average horizontal movement is 14 inches and 24 inches drop.
A few more alarming stats about Soto’s stuff from Baseball Savant. His below-average stat is the swing and miss percentage. He was 19% and the league average was 24.9%. He was also barred up at 10% compared to 7% to the league average. Soto’s average exit velocity was 90.5 MPH while the league average exit velocity is 87.7 MPH which could explain the 9 home runs he allowed against right-handers. They also hit to the tune of .314 off Soto. However, there is a sign of a lively fastball as according to Brooks Baseball, his fastball release average speed went from 94.39 in May to 96.44 in September. He only threw that 6% of the time last year but was not used too much as a put-away pitch. He has been hitting 98 all spring long, which is a positive sign.
Gregory Soto’s numbers show he will be mainly a fly ball pitcher but if he can’t get movement on his pitches or his control issues down (33 walks in 57.2 innings pitched in 2019), he won’t be an effective pitcher. He does have a minor league opinion so starting him exclusively in the bullpen in Toledo would be the best bet. If Soto can build off his winter league appearance with Aguilas in which he struck out 16 in 11 innings pitched and only allowed four walks, the Tigers could have a solid bullpen depth arm just down the road in Toledo.