A finger injury may have cost Beloit Snappers' slugger Michael Soto nearly two months of the season, but the first-baseman is doing all he can to ensure 2014 isn’t a lost cause by going on a tear since his return.
Soto was struggling early through his first taste of full-season ball when a ground ball ricocheted off first base and broke the ring finger on his throwing hand May 7th. He didn’t return until the end of June, and remained in the Arizona Rookie League until a spot opened back up at a higher level.
“It was actually in Quad Cities the last time I got hurt,” said Soto, through interpreter (and Beloit pitcher) Junior Mendez. “I was getting a ground ball over to the left side, but it hit off the bag and shot up and hit me on the finger tip. It broke off my nail entirely and broke the tip of my finger. That kept me out for quite awhile. I went back to Arizona and competing there helped me re-group.”
Soto’s opportunity finally came in early August when Oakland released B.A. Vollmuth, thus giving Soto a job in the Snappers' infield.
"I was very antsy at the beginning of the season and was trying to do too much," Michael Soto said.
As they say, the rest is history, as Soto is in the midst of a breakout and is hitting .310 through 12 August games. After going 0-for-4 with three walks in his first two outings, the 22-year-old recorded hits in 11 of his next 22 at-bats over the next five with three doubles and a pair of triples. The August surge has risen Soto’s slash line to .271/.343/.458 through 31 games at Low-A.
“We had a heart-to-heart talk and I made him cognizant of the fact that he’s getting older and he’s been at this level, either at Vermont or Beloit the last two years,” Snappers' manager Rick Magnante said.
“With the onset of the draft and new players coming in, there are certain opportunities that are created. Those windows may be large or small. His chance to shine is right now, so take advantage of the opportunity and understand the importance of what you’re getting here. So far he’s picked up his game and is producing for us.”
Magnante has reinforced to Soto that he’s in a make-or-break period of his professional career, and what he does over the next couple weeks could help determine whether he makes the jump to High-A ball in 2015.
“He’s come in here and understands this is a 30-to 40-game window of opportunity for him,” Magnante said. “He was here at the beginning and had the injury with the finger. He had a pin placed in it, went back to Arizona and rehabbed, and then after the June draft he stayed out there and played in the Rookie League to get himself into shape.
“With the loss of Vollmuth, we needed a first-baseman and he was a logical choice to bring back in. It’s an opportunity and second chance for him this year to get back on-track and make people notice. If he finishes strong, he’s in a position to move to the next level next year.”
Instead of placing too much pressure on himself to put up big power numbers down the stretch, Soto has taken a simpler approach.
“I was very antsy at the beginning of the season and was trying to do too much,” Soto said. “I tried to hit home runs and do too much. When I was in Arizona, I worked on being selective at the plate. I went in every single day getting in that early work and working on my swing.
“Now I’m more about looking for that one pitch that I can make hard contact on and not worried about the result. That’s all you can do. I’m all about having a quality at-bat every single time up.”
Soto is happy to have the rehab process behind him, especially with how much pain was involved with having the finger injury.
“At first I was scared to make a swing, because when you’re grabbing the bat you’re squeezing against it and my finger’s pushing up against it,” he said. “But now I’m back to where I was, as far as my bat speed and everything being normal.”