Cincinnati Reds in Review: 1B Neftali Soto


First baseman Neftali Soto had a whopping 42 career at-bats as a member of the Cincinnati Reds. He was with the organization for over seven years, but never got his shot. Was not giving him a chance a miscalculation on the part of the front office?

Neftali Soto – First Baseman

Soto showed up in 2007 at rookie ball as a baby-faced 18-year-old. Over more than 150 at-bats, his batting average would exceed .300 and he would drive in 28 runs.

Slowly but surely, Soto moved his way up the ladder of the minor leagues. With age, came power. In 2010 at high-A ball, Soto broke out, clobbering 21 home runs and driving in 73 runs. The next year at Double-A Carolina, he would hammer 30 long balls in just 379 at-bats, forcing a late-season move up to Triple-A Louisville. Ever since then, it has been stagnation for Soto.

First, it was his batting average that slipped. Hitting only .245 in 2012, Soto only drove the ball out of the park 14 times as well. The average would jump back up to .271 in 2013, but with Joey Votto manning first base quite well for the Major League club, there wasn’t much upward movement for Neftali.

Then in 2014, it seemed he would get his chance. Abandoning all power, Soto would hit only two home runs in just over 300 plate appearances at Triple-A Louisville this past season. Yet, he his average would rise all the way up to .302.

It became glaringly apparent midway through the season that Votto would be on the disabled list for an extended period of time. Rather than turn to the organization’s best first base prospect that had never seen extended playing time of any sort, the club found every reason possible to not play him. Roger Bernadina and Jay Bruce, who had never played first base in their professional lives, saw time there. Brayan Pena, the team’s back-up catcher who had a mild familiarity with the position saw the most time. And yet, there sat Soto.

The only plausible reason that Soto never saw time was that the club truly had no faith in him. They believed the season was still salvageable, but didn’t think Soto could be a part of that equation.

As of November 4, Soto has been granted free agency. He stands a 25-year-old first baseman with three career hits in 42 at-bats. For now, he has no home, and clearly the Reds front office has no interest in him.

Soto’s Stat Line:

.100/.097/.133, 3 H, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 SB, -0.3 WAR

Top Neftali Soto Moment:

If Soto never again reaches the Major Leagues, he will always remember April 14, 2014. Pinch-hitting in the bottom of the fifth inning, he would rifle a double down the left-field line off Pittsburgh Pirates’ pitcher Wandy Rodriguez. It would be his first Major League hit; one of three he would collect all year long.

Low-Point of the Season for Neftali Soto:

Soto would get all of four starts during a season in which the team had a true first baseman for less than half the time. His final at-bat came on July 19 at the immortal Yankee Stadium. If that’s the way his career ends, he’ll always have that lasting image of playing on baseball’s most hallowed ground.

Final Grade: F

Going 3-for-30 in a predominantly pinch-hitting role is not exactly glamorous work. Soto was tasked with the impossible of delivering against some of the best arms in the game out of the bullpen on a treacherous schedule of batting sometimes once or twice a week.

Wherever Soto finds life with professional baseball next season, the Reds will look back at the first baseman that brimmed with potential just a few short years ago, and think of what might have been.