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Cleveland Indians prospect Giovanni Soto has dominated AAA this season

After a rather arduous trip through the minors, Giovanni Soto is on the cusp of breaking into the majors as a reliever.

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In 2010, the Indians traded Jhonny Peralta just before the July trade deadline for a low-level prospect. Peralta was having a decent year at the plate (after posting an 85 OPS+ in 2009), but the Indians weren't going to pick up a $7M team option on his contract, and with the team well on their way towards a 90-loss season, it was time to part ways. There wasn't a lot of interest in Peralta, and so the Indians eventually traded him to a division rival, something they usually don't do. That rival was the Detroit Tigers, who needed an upgrade a shortstop (even though Peralta had moved to third base), and was willing to pick up Peralta's 2011 team option. The Tigers were rewarded with one of Peralta's best offensive seasons in 2011, and would later sign him to an extension that kept him in Detroit through the 2014 season.

But this article isn't about Peralta. It's about the low-level prospect that they received in the Peralta trade. That low-level prospect was Giovanni Soto (not to be confused with catcher Geovany Soto), a 20-year-old left-handed pitcher who was in the midst of a successful season in the Midwest League (low-A). The young pitcher in A-ball is one of the lowest values of prospects you can receive in a trade, because (A) pitching prospects are notoriously volatile, and (B) even if the young pitching prospect makes the majors, it will take quite a while for him to get there. Still, Soto was left-handed and was having success against his peers. Baseball America had this to say about him at the time of the trade:

Long and lean, Soto tops out in the high 80s with his two-seam fastball and also throws a slurvy breaking ball. His changeup remains a work in progress, but Soto has youth (and a quick arm) working for him.

In other words, a finesse left-hander with off-speed pitches that weren't that effective. His fastball was by far his best pitch, and it was effective because of deception in his motion. Injury-plagued seasons in 2011 and 2013 slowed his ascent through the system, and when he returned to action in 2014, it was as a reliever. He pitched well with Akron a year ago, and so far this season he's been virtually unhittable in Columbus, limiting opposing batters to a .153/.247/.194 line. He's also been effective against both right-handers and left-handers, something that wasn't the case earlier in his career. His walk totals (3.7 BB/9) are a bit high, but then again, he's only allowed 4.5 H/9, so his overall WHIP is still impressive. His role at the major-league level would probably be as a left-handed specialist, and although in the grand roster construction scheme those roles aren't super valuable, but developing your own left-handed specialists (rather than paying full retail for a free agent) frees up some money for other areas of the roster.

With Kyle Crockett struggling in Columbus, and with Soto eligible for minor-league free agency after this season (this is his seventh professional season), I would expect the Indians at some point to give Soto a shot at the major-league level at some point in 2015, whether it be as an injury replacement or as a September call-up once the rosters can expand.