Grasshoppers' Soto through in clutch

Marlins No. 26 prospect notches go-ahead hit on five-RBI day

Isael Soto is hitting .199 with a .622 OPS after missing all of last season with a fractured foot. (Ken Inness/

By Josh Horton / | July 8, 2018 8:32 PM

His manager calls him "Baby Bull." And despite his struggles and injury concerns, Isael Soto showed why he earned that moniker. 

Miami's No. 26 prospect homered and collected five RBIs, including the go-ahead run in the 11th inning, in Class A Greensboro's 11-10 slugfest win over Lexington at Whitaker Bank Ballpark. 

Video: Grasshoppers' Soto sparks rally with three-run jack

"He's just an all-around tools guy," Grasshoppers manager Todd Pratt said. "Plus arm, plus defense, typical right fielder and plus power. He just hasn't put it together." 

By going 3-for-5 on Sunday, Soto raised his average 11 points to .199. It's been a difficult season for the 21-year-old, whose five-year career has mostly been marred by injuries.

After hitting .251/.302/.426 in his first season in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2014, Soto compiled a slash line of .125/.164/.141 in 17 games with Greensboro to start 2015 before landing on the disabled list with a left lateral meniscus injury. 

Gameday box score

Soto returned to the Grasshoppers in 2016, hitting .247/.320/.399 with 24 doubles, five triples, nine homers and 33 RBIs. He missed 2017 after sustaining a fractured foot in Minor League camp while chasing down a fly ball and was on the disabled list from May 8 to June 2 with an oblique injury this season. 

Pratt estimates Soto is 600 plate appearances behind due to his injuries.

"But I think it's more about reps," the skipper said. "We get better with the more at-bats that we get and I think that's what he needs. Think about it, he had a whole year off, not too many players bounce back from that, and in the first few weeks of the season, he's out four or five more weeks, starting all over again."

Signed for a reported $310,000, Soto was coveted for his potential at the plate with raw power and excellent bat speed, according to MLB Pipeline. Despite the discouraging numbers this season, Pratt is confident Soto will come around as he matures as a hitter, whether it's in the second half or further down the line. 

"It's just [making more] consistent contact, pitch selection and not missing his pitch as much," the manager said. "Today, he showed what he could do. Some of those balls were hit really hard."

While Soto was recovering from the foot fracture, he spent the entire season resting and rehabbing at the Marlins' facility in Jupiter, Florida. Returning to a clubhouse environment has been reinvigorating for Soto, who has retained a positive attitude, even during his slump, his manager said.

"He keeps a good head on his shoulders," Pratt said. "He hasn't been hanging his head much. ... I love the kid. Great attitude. Even in the first half of the season where he struggled, even when he was injured, he had a great attitude and he was a hard worker."

The Legends led after seven innings, 8-2, but the Grasshoppers mounted a comeback with Soto's three-run homer to right field -- his fourth of the season -- in the eighth off Collin Snider and his game-tying sacrifice fly to left in the ninth to send the game to extras. 

Soto delivered the game's most crucial hit in the 11th, flicking a single to right that plated Garvis Lara. Sean Guenther earned his first win of the season by retiring the Legends in order in the bottom of the frame. 

Video: Lexington's Matias bashes 26th home run

Manny Olloque went 4-for-5 with three RBIs, falling a triple shy of the cycle for Lexington. Third-ranked Royals prospect Seuly Matias belted his Minor League-leading 26th homer of the season.

Josh Horton is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter @joshhortonMiLB This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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