LA Angels new prospect Livan Soto was a part of what many saw as one of the biggest international free agent events of all time after the Atlanta Braves were made to forfeit years of international signings in 2016. After violating international free agent rules the MLB banned their then GM for life and made 13 of their signings free agents.
Because of this the LA Angels were able to land both Livan Soto and Kevin Maitan, both highly praised international prospects. Both of these athletes were seen as major steps forward for the Angels organization, both in the sense of the Angels expanding their scouting philosophies and immediately upgrading their (then) poor farm system.
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What makes Livan Soto so valuable as a prospect is his incredibly mature approach to the game at the young age of 18. Plate approach is always something you need to teach before you can really jump on the other factors of a young athletes game. With that being said, Soto is far head of the curve. Livan Soto already had an advanced approach coming into the Angels system and over the last two years he’s shown off his maturity as well as ability to grow. In 2017 Soto slashed .225/.332/.254 in the Gulf Coast League with the Braves across 208 plate appearances. 2018 was a huge step forward for Soto, at the age of 18 he immediately elevated his game by hitting .291/.385/.349 across 200 plate appearances and doubling his double total from 5 to 10 in that 2018 season.
Everything seems to be ringing true for Soto, his on base skills and plate approach are light-years ahead of most athletes his age and continue to grow. He hasn’t struck out more than he’s walked yet within the two years he’s been working as a professional athlete, Soto in total walking 27 times to 26 K’s in 2017 while also walking 24 times to 24 K’s in 2018.
Defensively he looks to develop into a premium defender at shortstop. He has all the makings as of now; a reliable arm, soft hands and quick reactions. The one thing that concerns, despite all of his potential, is his lack of size. It’s not that Soto is a small guy, but at 6’0 160lbs he has a lot of filling out to do before he can truly exercise his highest potentials.
Regarding his size, Soto can hit well already as noted by his 2018 slash line (.291/.385/.349), yet his issues lay with driving the ball. Despite his strong contact ability he really has no impact drive behind his hits. Given his age (18) and size (160lbs) there is a strong belief that strength training will put him over the top in terms of his hitting ability. Right now he mostly just puts the ball in play, but a couple of years of development and strength training could easily give him the muscle to drive a ball.
That being said, Soto already looks very solid in terms of living up to future projectables. It’s interesting to think that right now he’s having to play around his inability to punch the ball with significance. His ability to get on base alongside his matured plate approach allow him to stay an impact player regardless of his strength shortcomings. It will be very interesting to see the leaps and bounds his game evolved through once he is able to add to his already impressive tool set by nurturing some punch in his bat.
Pitchers can pitch to him somewhat liberally given his small bat, as Soto isn’t primed to really abuse a bad pitch. However, this doesn’t stop him from working each and every of his at-bats and stressing pitchers. He forces pitchers to minimize their strike-zone given his limited strikeouts, an ability which will look even better when he can also make hitters pay for bad pitches. A combination of his plate approach and a potent bat is something that will truly stress pitchers at the big league level.
Developmental Needs: Strength Training
Best Tools: Plate Approach, On Base Skills, Contact Ability, Fielding, Arm Strength
MLB Estimation: 2021