A 17-year-old catcher signed a year late, but made up for lost time in his professional debut.

The Cardinal Nation’s top 50 prospect countdown for 2017 continues with the third selection, a teenaged catcher who had a strong debut in the Dominican Republic. Details for TCN members.

http://www.scout.com/player/210324-carlos-soto?s=321

2016 rank Pos. DOB Signed Round
NA C 04 27 99 2016 IFA

Selected 2016 stats

Tm AVG BABIP AB R H 2B HR RBI BB SO SB wOBA OBP SLG OPS
DSL 0.303 0.349 99 17 30 6 1 10 25 17 0 0.423 0.441 0.394 0.835

Staff comments (individual rankings in parentheses)

Message board community (43): During the community vote, the freshly-signed Carlos Soto, hailing from Mexico, checked in as the 43rd-ranked prospect. Soto received support as early as #33 from BobReed.

During the vote, I mentioned that he is young even for the Dominican Summer League, which is a real positive, as is the Cardinals’ history of signing international players to $400,000 bonuses like Junior Fernandez, Edmundo Sosa, and Eliezer Alvarez – three prospects who will appear later on this list.

Mudville riffed a bit about how he would like to see a natural-born Mexican succeed as a major leaguer. He mentioned that from the videos he has seen that Soto looks strong and athletic as well. - Jeremy Byrd

 

Derek Shore (46): In their historic international signing class this past July 2, the Cardinals were among many teams that blew past their bonus pools. That included the addition of one of the best Mexican prospects in Soto.

Soto, 17, was eligible to sign in 2015, but opted instead to wait a year and it paid dividends. He cashed in a reported $400,000 signing bonus and did not disappoint as he jumped right into the professional ranks. Soto slashed .303/.441/.394 with a home run and 10 RBI through 30 games for the DSL Cardinals. Lauded for his current hitting ability, Soto drew 25 walks, striking out only 17 times in 99 at-bats.

He is a 6-foot-2 traditional left-handed hitting catcher, who might have to move off the position, but he is said to have the bat speed to hit with power. His fallback would ultimately be first base, which would significantly hinder his overall value, but the fact he is a catcher and features power as his best tool is a potential game-changer. He sports a leg kick that helps him generate great natural loft on the ball that makes me think his power will play.

From watching his prospect showcase videos from when he was a 16-year-old, Soto seems to be well filled out already while being thick through his lower body. Overall, he looks like a big, strong individual. Behind the plate, his raw arm strength seems to be a strong asset, throwing with a short release arm motion that should only improve with more reps.

Based on his 2016 performance in how his bat translated so quickly, I hope the Los Mochis, Mexico native is brought stateside to showcase his skill-set in extended spring training in 2017. He is intriguing.

 

Brian Walton (NR): You have surely noticed by now that we have no images of Soto yet. That is because he has yet to set foot on U.S. soil as a professional baseball player.

Still, from what I can see from the stat sheet I like, including an average over .300 and more walks than strikeouts – both positive indicators.

But, it is just too early for me to rank a 17-year-old with essentially a month’s worth of professional stats, all compiled in the Dominican Republic.

I asked someone who has seen Soto a lot about him - Cardinals Director of International Operations Moises Rodriguez. His assessment was even more positive than I had expected. 

“Soto was a player who was eligible a year ago but signability was the issue - his agent and salary expectations kept him on the market,” Rodriguez said. “We stayed with him and come springtime, we negotiated a deal to sign him with the July 2016-2017 budget.”

Unlike many others in his signing class, Soto was deemed by the Cardinals player development staff as being ready to play.

“(We) plugged him in right away,” Rodriguez noted. “Polished bat. Left-handed hitting catcher with power potential. A lot of offensive upside. As you know, to be a front-line starting prospect catching on the big league side, you have to have power. He fits that interesting category of front line potential – but he has a long way to go. He’s got a special bat - in the making.”

However, as with any teenager, some parts of the game are ahead of others. Soto is going to need more time to work on his defense.

“The offense is ahead of the defense,” Rodriguez said. “He has got some work to do down there blocking, but he has enough arm. His hands work well enough back there that we can see him staying behind the dish.”

My guess is that given Soto’s youth and limited experience, the Cardinals may wait for him to put together another strong season in the DSL before assigning him to the Gulf Coast League. A spot in extended spring training would suggest he is close, but again I would not be surprised if even that does not occur until 2018.

It is also worth noting that Soto was not invited to 2016 fall instructional league camp in Jupiter. That is just one indicator, not a sure measure, but I suspect a state-side assignment in 2017 would be moving too fast.

I don’t quibble with the other voters who are higher on Soto right now than I am, but I just see too many competitors with more established track records worthy of being ranked instead. Even so, I gave him a fairly aggressive grade below considering his limited experience and look forward to him potentially moving up my monthly rankings during the 2017 season.

TCN Scouting Grade: 4, Risk: Extreme (click here to review scales)

 

Our 2017 top 50 series continues

To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the top 50 countdown and nine in-depth, follow-up articles. Most of them are exclusively for members of The Cardinal Nation, so join today and don’t miss out!

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