Friday, July 22, 2011

Looking at Venezuelan Enyelbert Soto of the Chunichi Dragons

I try to profile Latino players that are currently playing in the Nippon Professional Baseball League (NPB) to bring awareness to players who may not have reached their potential while playing in MLB. Last season I profiled Venezuelan outfielder Alex “Rami-chan” Ramirez of the Yomiuri Giants. This season I’ve decided to profile another Venezuelan, pitcher Enyelbert Soto of the Chunichi Dragons.

Soto was originally signed by the Houston Astros as an undrafted free agent in 1999 and seemed to retire voluntarily in 2002 (Why? I can’t seem to find out. When I do I’ll update the post). Soto made his return with the Astros organization in January of 2003 and started pitching for the Greenville Astros of the Rookie Appalachian League in 2004. In 24 games, Soto went 1-1 with a 1.03 ERA with 13 saves in 35.0 innings pitched. Soto struck out 47 while walking only 2 while giving up 30 hits and 10 runs for a WHIP of 0.91. His performance at Greenville led to his promotion to Class A- Tri-City Valley Cats of the New York-Penn League.

In parts of two seasons at Tri-City (2004-2005), Soto went 0-1 with a 3.75 ERA in 10 games with 12.0 innings pitched. He struck out 15 while walking 4 while giving up 11 hits and 6 runs for a WHIP of 1.250. Soto spent the remainder of the 2005 season with the Lexington Legends of the Class A South Atlantic League. In 16 games, Soto went 2-1 with a 4.44 ERA with 2 saves in 26.1 innings pitched. He struck out 16 and walked 2 while giving up 36 hits and 14 runs for a WHIP of 1.443. The next stop for Soto was with the Salem Avalanche of the Class Advanced A Carolina League.

In parts of two seasons with Salem (2006-2007), Soto posted a 5-5 record with a 2.14 ERA with 2 saves in 92.2 innings pitched. He struck out 67 while walking 32 while giving up 92 hits and 32 runs for a WHIP of 1.338. Soto would finish the remainder of the 2007 season with the Corpus Christi Hooks of the Class AA Texas League. In 6 games at Corpus Christi Soto compiled a 1-0 record with a 10.00 ERA in 9 innings pitched. Unlike his other stops in the minors, Soto seemed to have a difficulty with the batters in AA. Soto struck out 9 while walking 13 and giving up 16 hits and 12 runs for a WHIP of 3.222. That’s where Soto’s minor league experience ends and he seems to just disappear from organized baseball.

Then I notice that Patrick Newman of NPBTracker.com posted the following in his article Chunichi Notes: Chen, Soto dated January 24, 2011:

the Dragons will look at another lefty this spring. 28 year-old Venezuelan Enyelbert Soto will participate in Chunichi’s camp on a trial basis. Soto has minor league experience in the Astros organization and played in Italy last season.

Soto made the team and as of today he has been exceptionally productive for the Dragons. In 12 games, he is 1-0 with a 1.04 ERA 17.1 innings pitched. His strikeout to walk ratio seems to have normalized with his striking out 11 with only 2 walks and giving up 16 hits and only 4 runs for a WHIP of 1.052. His last appearance on July 19th was his first start in Japan in which he pitched 5 innings of 1-run ball allowing 4 hits and striking out 2 while not walking a batter.

So what does this mean for Soto? Has the change of scenery worked to his benefit? Are the hitters that he is facing in the NPB of lesser quality than those he had trouble with in AA? I don’t know. Maybe there isn’t a specific reason for his initial success in his first season in Japan. All I can tell is that he is doing his job coming out of the bullpen and now starting for the second place Chunichi Dragons. I will take a look at his progress during the second half of the NPB season. Sayonara and Adios.

FH

For Further Reading:
- Click Here for Enyelbert Soto's career minor league statistics from Baseball-Reference.com
- Click Here for Enyelbert Soto's career minor league statistics from TheBaseballCube.com
- Click Here for Enyelbert Soto's page from the NPB.org website
- Click Here for the article Soto solid as Dragons rout Giants from the Japan Times Online dated July 19, 2011
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