Generally, a good bullpen has strength in its left-handed options.
Last season, the Cleveland Indians dealt their most experienced southpaw, Marc Rzepczynski, to the San Diego Padres in a move at the deadline that helped the club in the outfield over the final two months of the season. The void in the ‘pen was noticeable, however, especially when the other primary lefty reliever, Nick Hagadone, succumbed to multiple injuries.
The Indians ended the season with two matchup guys on their relief staff who had spent the majority of the season at Triple-A Columbus. One of those guys was Giovanni Soto, a name Tribe fans may need to know.
It may be tough to believe, but last season was Soto’s sixth in the Indians organization and just his second working primarily as a reliever. The 24-year-old lefty was acquired by the Indians back in 2010, just one season after he was drafted in the 21st round of the June draft by the Detroit Tigers.
Soto showed mixed results on the farm for the Indians after generally positive results in a year with the Tigers. He was 4-0 with a 1.18 ERA in 13 games after signing with Detroit in 2009 and was 6-6 for their West Michigan affiliate in 16 starts prior to his trade for Jhonny Peralta and cash in 2010. With Lake County, he was 3-2 in six starts with a 3.77 ERA and 1.07 WHIP.
He was limited to just 18 games of work, including 12 starts, in 2011 and ended the season with a combined 4-4 record, 3.13ERA, and 1.19 WHIP with the team’s Kinston and Arizona League affiliates. The next season, his final as a full-time starter, he went 6-9 with a 3.93 ERA. That season, he threw what would have to be one of the highlights of his career, a nine inning no-hitter against Altoona on July 15th while with Akron.
A back injury cut into his 2013 season, leaving him to pitch at a minimum at Triple-A Columbus. The fifth-year pitcher appeared in just nine games and made one start and struggled to an 0-1 record, 5.19 ERA, and a 1.96 WHIP. He started the next season at Akron and spent the year with the RubberDucks, working in 37 games in relief while posting much more favorable numbers.
He returned to Columbus in 2015 and looked the part of a reliever, appearing 45 times in 46 games in the capacity and working a 2-1 record, 2.68 ERA, and a 1.19 WHIP. After the playoff season ended for the Clippers, he joined the Indians roster on September 4th and made his Major League debut against the club who drafted him, Detroit.
He made six appearances for the Indians down the stretch, all incidentally enough against American League Central opponents, and was unscored upon in three and one-third innings of work. He did not walk a batter or strike anyone out and surrendered just three singles. Two of the three hits curiously came against left-handed batters and the other was to a switch-hitter.
Soto will throw a variety of pitches. He has relied heavily on a low 90s four-seamer and a slider in the mid-80s. He will also mix in off-speed pitches in the form of a curveball and changeup that both sit in the mid-70s.
With Hagadone presumably unavailable to start the season, Soto joins Kyle Crockett as the top two southpaw options for manager Terry Francona’s bullpen in 2016. The club may still look outside of the organization for help, as several veteran options are available via free agency. Regardless, Soto is a name to know who has worked his way through injury and transitioned into a potential bullpen piece for 2016.
Photo: Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY Sports