Yesterday afternoon against the Chicago White Sox the Cincinnati Reds put Neftali Soto behind the plate to catch the final two innings of the game. Soto, who has caught just 10 games in his minor league career, all coming in the 2010 season, seemed to hold his own back there.
Soto was initially drafted out of high school as a shortstop. He didn’t last long at that position before moving to third base and then eventually to first base. The Reds then thought of the idea to put him behind the plate and worked him into 10 games in the 2010 season with the then Advanced-A affiliate Lynchburg Hillcats. That was the last time he was behind the plate in a game, though he would still warm up pitchers between innings when he would DH or on off days for him as well as catch a bullpen session every now and again.
This spring though he showed up early to camp with the pitchers and catchers to get in some extra work behind the plate and it seems as though the move has paid off. While we are talking about an incredibly limited number of pitches received behind the plate on Wednesday afternoon, he showed soft hands and quiet actions behind the plate. He didn’t get a chance to throw to a base, and when he caught in 2010 that was an issue for him as he tossed out just one of 16 attempted base stealers. Still, he has a strong enough arm that he should be able to keep most guys honest.
In addition to being able to catch, he can also play first and third base. At the plate he has been impressive this spring, hitting .378/.391/.689. He has five doubles and three home runs in his 46 plate appearances.
With Devin Mesoraco still not playing in games because of an oblique injury (he will play in minor league games so his DL trip could be backdated if needed), the fact that Soto can be a backup catcher to Brayan Pena and Devin Mesoraco that allows Price to use anyone as a pinch hitter and still have a capable catcher really improves his chances of sticking around on the roster.