We’ve all heard and observed the yo-yo’ing of Geovany Soto’s offensive production.

Before his 2007/2008 breakout campaigns, Soto was a relatively light-hitting, solid defensive minor league catcher. In 2006, at AAA Iowa, Soto had a modest .739 OPS. Hopes were low. In 2008 with the Cubs, he was the Rookie of the Year on the strength of an excellent .285/.364/.504 season. Hopes were very high.

Then he stunk in 2009, and dealt with minor injuries. Hopes were low again. But then he was awesome in 2010, and was one of the best bats in the Cubs’ lineup (not to mention one of the best offensive catchers in baseball). Hopes were very high again.

Then last year happened. Expectations fell to “low” once again. Yo-yo.

Before that huge 2010 season, Soto said he gave up some fatty foods, got in great shape, and put himself in a position to succeed. When he showed up in Spring Training, the change was obvious. He looked almost svelte.

You hear those kind of stories frequently. Sometimes they produce huge seasons, but more frequently they are little more than a footnote to another typical season for that player. For Soto, it probably worked.

Here’s hoping it works again. From Cubs.com:

Prior to the 2010 season, Soto reported to camp 40 pounds lighter. That year, he hit .280 with 17 homers in 105 games. But that offseason, he existed on a steady diet of chicken breasts.

“Now, I have a little more carbs in the morning and a lot more balanced [diet], so when I come off the diet I’m not as ferocious hungry as before,” he said Wednesday at Fitch Park after an early hitting session in the batting cages.

“Now, I have a better balance [in my diet],” he said. “[Cubs outfielder] Marlon Byrd and I are going to be on the same program and keep the weight off. He looks unbelievable. I just want to stay in shape and get the club some wins.”

Byrd saw a nutritionist this offseason and discovered he was allergic to milk and wheat, which prompted him to alter his diet. He lost more than 20 pounds, too.

The struggle for Soto is keeping the weight off during the season.

“Sometimes you throw away the diet after catching nine innings in a day game,” he said. “I think I’ve made the adjustment in the eating program. I know what to do to keep it off.”

Soto added that he’s been working with hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo on his approach at the plate, both the mental side and the physical side. Soto is looking to put less pressure on himself from at-bat to at-bat, and focus on the minor adjustments Jaramillo suggested.

The good news, in addition to the whole “great shape” and “working on my approach” bits, is that Soto’s 2011 season was actually not as bad as it looked. Yes, the .228/.310/.411 slash line looks ugly, but it was actually good enough for a 96 OPS+. Being 4% below average isn’t exactly awful for a catcher. His .280 BABIP was a full 30 points below his career average to that point, which suggests he was quite unlucky.

Even if it weren’t for the yo-yo history (which is not, to me, a meaningful predictive method), there are reasons to be optimistic about Soto’s production in 2012. Here’s hoping he gets off to a fast start, for any number of reasons…

  • EQ76

    maybe he could be our cleanup hitter since we don’t seem to have one.

  • dw

    …so the Cubs can trade him?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Ellipses completed.

    • http://www.casualcubsfan.com hansman1982

      …so the Cubs can win the World Series!

    • SirCub

      …so my first round draft pick doesn’t look so stupid!

      • http://www.casualcubsfan.com hansman1982

        25 draft picks, 25 Cubs on the active roster, coincidence? I think not.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

        So you’re taking Soto in the first round, eh?

        • SirCub

          I mean, I’d like to, but I only have the 4th overall pick…

          • http://www.casualcubsfan.com hansman1982

            You might get lucky, Campana, Barney, Soriano, LaHair, Maine, Carpenter, Sonnanstine, Lopez all could just as easily go #1 overall instead of Soto.

  • http://windycityweekly.com WindyCityWeekly

    Unfortunately, I think Soto is going to feel plenty of pressure this year, because the Cubs are going to be desperate for offense. So here’s hoping he can keep his focus.

    • JulioZuleta

      He uses a certain technique, er substance, which makes him oblivious to pressure, and just lets him chilll, maannnn.

      • PKJ

        Oh, I get it… It’s a pot joke!

  • Edwin

    After reading nothing but the title, I can only assume that Soto is working with a yo-yo master, which will somehow translate into better hitting this season, karate kid style.

    • SirCub

      Walk the dog, Geo-san!

    • Swaz46

      I simply assumed that Geo had taken up the cello this offseason.

  • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

    Based on some picture changes I’ve seen on Twitter, it looks like Bruce Levine is going to go from being the Cubs’ beat writer for ESPN to being some kind of Cubs/White Sox coverage guy, and Doug Padilla, who previously covered the White Sox, will begin covering the Cubs.

  • die hard

    If there ever was a time for a leader to emerge, nows the time especially since hes the catcher and field general. Without Pena hogging the pitcher’s mound, Soto should step up to the cahllenge. Sveum giving him control of the game including calling all pitches instead of having to look into the dugout each pitch will go a long way to elevating Soto’s confidence and his game.

  • Beer Baron

    Looks like DeWitt cleared waivers and was optioned to Iowa:


    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Was already typing!

      • SirCub

        You sir, are quick!

    • http://www.casualcubsfan.com hansman1982

      Good, while he may not be starting caliber in the majors he will be an excellent piece waiting in the wings in the event that someone goes down on injury.

  • Dick

    Soto is the 1st guy I would have traded this off-season. They have two potentially good young catchers in Castillo and Clevenger, and Soto has value. Trade from strength…..

    • Andrew

      I think Soto could be traded for a decent package, but I think he will be pretty good this year and may bring a lot more around the deadline while giving Castillo some finetuning in AAA

      • gocubbies


    • WGNstatic

      Sure, but Soto was lousy in 2011. Had they traded him this winter, they would have been trading a below average catcher, not the 2008 or 2010 version. If he gets out of the gate fast, and Castillo continues to develop, I would be all for dangling him at the trade deadline.