Updated: May 2, 2019
THIS IS A COUNTDOWN!!!!! Over the next forty-something days starting on February 12th and ending on March 28th, I will be rolling out my Top 35 prospects in the Cardinals organization. We call it "The Dirty Thirty-Five" because it's marketable, I think. Also, we call it that because my write-ups and evaluations are a little different. I’m kind of a quirky and goofy guy, and the evaluations fit that personality. I've already written about the four players that graduated off the list. I've also written about the guys that just missed the list. You should check those out because you're going to have questions about my sanity afterwards. The article about the guys that didn’t make the D35 is really freaking good. This list is my own. It's terrible. I'm fine with it. Remember, have fun with these lists. Ranking prospects is a joke, but it's fun so treat all of the prospect ranking accordingly.
Edmundo Sosa - Utility Infielder
Signed as an International Free Agent in 2012
AAA Memphis Age 23
STATS AS OF 5-1-2019
This guy's story is longer than I realized.
Look at how long this Sosa has been around!!! Baseball is really stupid, isn't it?!
Sosa's story is the kind of story that teaches us not to get too excited about the offensive production of a player in the rookie leagues. As a 19-year-old in the Appalachian League, Sosa played an above average (flashing "plus") short stop, while hitting seven home runs and 12 additional extra base hits in 223 plate appearances. He posted a hitting line of 300/369/485, and that caught the everyone's eyes. That was enough to put him into a lot of top 10 organizational prospect lists.
And, honestly, it should have. Those are really solid numbers for a player so young.
The issue was that Sosa's swing mechanics were bad and susceptible to advanced breaking pitches. The other issue was that Sosa had a terrible approach. prior to 2018, we saw both of these issues really handicap his ability to get traction at the full-season levels of the minor leagues. It was starting to appear as if Sosa's prospect-flame was burning out. Also, during his lackluster 2017 season, the "potentially plus" defense at short took a dramatic step backwards. It was starting to look like every aspect of his game had taken a step back.
The good news is, this is also a story about why you don't give up on minor leaguers in their early 20's. Especially extremely athletic and gifted prospects like Sosa. Towards the end of the 2017 season, Sosa started to work on a swing-change that mirrored the "launch angle revolution" that was going on throughout baseball. Why not? At this point in his career, something needed to change.
While it took Sosa the end of the 2017 season, all of the 2017 Arizona Fall League, and the first month of the 2018 season to get a feel for it, he really took off in May while hitting 307/372/455 with six doubles and three home runs in 111 plate appearances.
He struggled again in June between AA and AAA, but his last two months of the regular season more closely resembled his month of May. I believe that this represents his ultimate potential/ceiling. Over those last two months worth of 189 plate appearances, Sosa slashed 262/323/413 with five home runs and eleven doubles. He also posted a walk rate of 6.8% and a strike out rate of 22.2%. I truly believe that this is the consistent hitter that Sosa has turned into, and the best indication of what we can expect from him at the minor league level moving forward. Potentially even at the major league level, too, if he maxes out.
So far as his swing goes and the changes that he made to it, it wasn't a coincidence that the success that he had in 2018 coincided with that swing change. His groundball rate moved from around 50% during his lackluster 2017 season, to around 38% in his breakthrough 2018 season. One thing that I've always loved about his swing is his quick hands. Because his approach is questionable, you'll often see him throw his hands at a ball to protect himself. More times than it should, this results in a pitch pushed down the right field line and fair. HIS HANDS SAVE HIM, just like they do here:
It's concerning how often this happens, but it's also a positive. Because of his approach in the first place, it's impressive that he's capable of even doing anything with these pitches.
The more of Sosa that I watch during the 2018 in retrospect, the more I appreciate just how good the bat has become. The sneaky power that he generates on pitches low in the zone is one thing that really sticks out to me. Look at where this pitch is and look at what he does with it in the .gif below. This is all bat-speed and barrel, and low in the zone is where he does some of his most impressive work:
Now that we've gushed about the amazing strides that he took in 2018, it's probably time to talk about the major concern that I have with him. That would be his approach. While he's become more aggressive against pitches that he can do something with and less aggressive with pitches that he can't do anything with, he still doesn't seem to have much of a plan at the plate. At the beginning of the season, it really seemed like he just wanted to hit the ball as hard as he could. As you might have suspected, that got him in trouble a lot. While that part of his approach cleaned up during the season, his approach and understanding of how he was going to be attacked never really seemed to click. He's vulnerable against all breaking pitches and good fastball, especially fastballs in the upper half of the strike zone.
Pivoting away from the negatives, one big positive that came from his 2018 season was that his defense appeared to revert back to the potentially "plus" tool that we saw pre-2017. He still does some aggravating things like short-arming the ball to first when he's rushing himself, but he really appeared to clean up his defense. At short, in particular.
I was also very impressed with how well he played both third and second. I really like him at third, and I didn't expect myself to feel that way. His double play turn as a second baseman leaves a little to be desired, but he's athletic and acrobatic enough to profile well at all of the infield positions. The only thing that really hurts his major league potential is that he doesn't swing the bat left-handed. If he did, then the Cardinals probably wouldn't have traded for Drew Robinson, and they'd be entering the 2019 heavily hoping that Sosa would be able to fill the Greg Garcia role.
If I'm to end this write-up on one note, it only seems fitting that I'd end it with an apology.
I've never given Sosa the credit that he deserves for being as speedy as he is. He isn't fast in the "this guys is going to steal a bunch of bases" kind of way. But he is fast in the "this guy is going to motor to third and there's nothing that you can do to stop him" kind of way. It's just another tool to like about this utility option.
THE BOTTOM LINE
I'm very encouraged with the strides that Sosa made during the 2018 season. While his approach still leaves a lot to be desired, the power that's come due to a swing change was a needed bonus and profile-upgrade. A once promising short stop prospect, Sosa will be a key utility infielder for the Cardinals moving forward. With a little power (that's increasing), an impressive amount of speed, and a good amount of versatility, Sosa is the type of player that the Cardinals usually squeeze every little bit of value out of. If I were doing the rankings over again, I'd probably move Sosa a handful of spots up the list. If the Cardinals were forced to pick one player on their current 40-man to play short stop if Paul DeJong were to miss substantial time, Sosa would be my first pick.
MAY 1st UPDATE
It's been a pretty solid start to the season for Sosa. I really like what I've seen from him. All of what I wrote above holds true, but Sosa is having some additional base hit luck, and that's helping him a great deal. His production during the month of April proves our point that his power comes on pitches low in the zone. I'm anxious to see what happens when teams start to pepper him up in the zone consistently again.
Thank you, as always, to FanGraphs for the stats!
Thanks For Reading!!