Geovany Soto, C, Chicago Cubs
You won't find a more debated prospect coming into 2008 due to his out-of-nowhere production last season. Coming into 2007, Soto had done nothing to prove himself as a top prospect in Chicago's system beyond being an above average defensive catcher, batting a paltry .262/.344/.371 over his full career. And there's still reason for concern coming into 2008 when you take into consideration his high hr/f rate and low fly ball and contact numbers upon call-up.
However, one simply cannot discount the numbers he put up last season as a fluke. Not only did he lead the minors in batting average by a catcher (.353) and slugging percentage (.652), he also won the Triple-A Pacific Coast League RBI crown (109) and was named MVP of the league. And he was arguably Chicago's best hitter after his call-up, so he was able to excel for an extended period of time.
One secret to this success might be the dramatic weight loss Soto achieved before 2007's start. By losing 30 pounds before the season, Soto was able to get around on pitches more efficiently with his compact swing, as well as helping his defense wholesale. While one has to take pause that he has not done this beyond one season, where and when he's doing it cannot be ignored.
Combine with that the fact that Soto is all but guaranteed the starting catcher gig this year, and you have yourself a potential breakout player. His defense will keep him up (he had a 31% caught-stealing rate last season, which will translate well in the big leagues), and considering how long they toiled with Jason Kendall
, if his bat is only half as good as it was last year, he's going to stick. Most quality catchers will go in the middle rounds of a regular 12-team, with the top three going way too early, making Soto a wonderful speculative pick at the end of your draft, allowing you to maximize on positional players with high at bat impacts.
460 AB, .281 BA, 19 HR, 66 R, 74 RBI, 1 SBJay Bruce, CF/RF, Cincinnati Reds
The consensus best hitter in the minor leagues last season and Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year, Bruce heads a class of Cincinnati prospects ready for prime time. He will be as hyped in your coming drafts as Alex Gordon
was last year and long-term projects as a perennial all-star and a top 20 player for years to come.
His similarities to Gordon unfortunately do not end with pedigree and hype, but also with him being drastically overvalued in redraft leagues. Cincinnati picked up Adam Dunn
's option, and with all three Reds outfielders returning, it's not clear where Bruce fits in right now. Cincinnati could be content with Bruce delaying his service time and fine-tuning his game in Triple-A for at least the first few months, though he really has little to nothing left to prove in the minors.
Bruce rates as above average in all five tools, with his bat his calling card (and it's quite the calling card). He has the ability to hit for both a very high batting average (.310+) and power (20 HR), this year. He'll be able to play an average centerfield, but long term projects as a right fielder which will allow his body to fill out. His major problem thus far has been a rather high K rate (23.5% at Triple-A last year), which combined with his lucky BABIP rates (.351, .400, .429 and .359 at his four respective stops, though this could be a developing skill), low contact rate (74%) and high ground ball rate (39%) says he'll have a bit of trouble with more advanced pitching – he'll be 21 at season's start after all. This is likely a temporary setback, and Cincinnati has proven time and time again that they'll promote (and stick with) pure power regardless of low average. But for 2008, what his production holds, overall, is still a major question. 204 plate appearances in Triple-A is not the same as a full year in the majors.
When you combine this with the lack of a clear spot for him to play, you'll be risking an awful lot with the high pick you'll have to use to grab him. Of course, if you're in a keeper league he'll be worth whatever you spend now at some point in the near future, but for those in one-year leagues, he's an extremely risky investment as he'll most likely be gone by the 7th to 10th rounds (and higher in NL-only). If he's there in the twelfth or lower rounds, by all means make the move, but this will be the exception, not the rule. If things change and he does get a starting job out of spring training, you can completely trash these numbers below.
315 AB's, .285 BA, 11 HR, 42 R, 45 RBI, 5 SB