Detroit Tigers: Three Reasons to be Optimistic about Gregory Soto
It’s three games in but there is a lot to like about the hard-throwing left-handed pitcher Gregory Soto for the Detroit Tigers bullpen.
For Detroit Tigers fans, the hard-throwing left-hander with strong command out of the bullpen is a rare, shooting star among the franchise’s history. The one that stands out the most is Willie Hernández, who won an MVP and Cy Young award in 1984 as he was the closer on the Tigers World Series championship squad.
Now before you jump down my back and say “are you comparing Soto to Willie Hernández”, the answer is no but providing context on the lack of left-handed stars out of the Tigers’ pen. Besides, Hernández never threw as hard as Soto is throwing.
We are not even a week into the season but Soto has made a major impression on Tigers fans. So much so, we received a few suggestions for nicknames when we put our poll question out there.
But Gregory Soto has quietly come up through the system as a starter and continues to adjust to the new role out of the bullpen. Here are the three takeaways from the early success so far.
1. Winter Ball 2019
During his time with Las Aguilas Cibaeñas in winter ball, he held his own. 12 games, 11 innings, 6 hits, 1ER 16K, and posting a WHIP of 0.91. During an interview that was in Spanish last month, he spoke about throwing more changeups with confidence and getting more comfortable in the role of a reliever, which he admitted, was an adjustment after being a starter for his career. The mindset was set in motion after the 2019 season to get ready to come out of the bullpen.
You can see the fastball at 97 back in November.
2. Less Moving Parts
If you watched the video above, you can see his leg kick has now become a sidestep although if you watched his outing against the Reds, he is still adjusting to the new delivery as you can see the old leg kick come back on a few pitches. Still, the repeatability of his mechanics on his new side step appears to make a difference, allowing him to drive to the plate much more efficiently.
3. Eye-Popping Early Numbers
What has been interesting so far is his go-to pitch, his sinker in 2019, was averaging 95 MPH with a spin rate of 2345. So far this season, his spin rate has gone up to 2441 and averaging 97.3 MPH on the gun. His slider velocity has increased and the early spin rate has indicated that has gone up from 2326 to 2403.
Again, this is a very small sample size of 29 pitches and the K% of 55.6 won’t last forever but one number that stands out. No walks so far in 3.2 innings of work. He walked 33 in 57.2 innings of work last season and he was not getting ahead of hitters like he is currently. He only needed just eight pitches to put down the Royals last night. The Detroit Tigers need consistency out of the bullpen and Soto could be the go-to lefty.