Minor League Review: Ariel Soriano, Utility Player Extraordinaire

By David Hill

Ariel Soriano was signed as an undrafted free agent on March 12, 2009 out of the Dominican Republic. Playing for the DSL Rays that season, he appeared in only one game, getting hit by a pitch and hitting a single in his two plate appearances that year.

In 2010, he was once again with the DSL Rays, playing all three outfield positions and every infield spot aside from first base. For the year, Soriano hit .273/.340/.368 with ten doubles, three triples, and two home runs, with 33 RBIs. He displayed solid plate discipline, walking 20 times with only 35 strikeouts. Soriano even chipped in nine stolen bases in fourteen attempts. For these efforts, Soriano was named the MVP of the DSL Rays.

The 2011 season found Soriano playing for the GCL Rays in the Gulf Coast League. There, he kept up his super utility ways, but spent more time in the infield, appearing in only seven games in left field. Soriano struggled offensively, hitting only .220/.286/.346. he displayed a little more power, with eleven doubles, two triples, and three home runs. He drew fourteen walks against 26 strikeouts, and stole ten bases in fifteen attempts.

A major part of his struggles at the plate had to do with his abysmal .239 batting average on balls in play, which was far below the league average of .303. This may have been partially due to a low line drive rate of 13.7%, and a slight tendency to hit popups, as 11.3% of his at bats ended with a flyball on the infield.

Despite these struggles, Soriano was promoted to the Princeton Rays in the Appalachian League. Here, he has become a true utility player, appearing in two games at second, eight at third, nine at short, three in left, and five in right. He has also posted his highest batting average, hitting at .298, to go along with a .331 on base percentage and a .413 slugging percentage. Soriano has collected seven doubles, two triples, and a home run over 121 at bats. He has driven in 21 runs, stolen nine bases without being caught, and has seven walks against 19 strikeouts.

This year, Soriano has increased his line drive frequency, hitting line drives in 14.4% of his at bats. He has also decreased the amount of infield flyballs, hitting them only 9.3% of the time. As he has begun hitting the ball with more authority, his batting average on balls in play has skyrocketed, presently sitting at .344 for the season.

While Soriano does not project to be a power hitter, he could end up as a decent contact hitter. If Ariel Soriano has a major league future, it is likely to be a super utility man, with the ability to play anywhere in the outfield, as well as three infield spots. He could end up being a decent bench option in a few more years.