p>Editor's Note: Red Baron has compiled this year's top prospects in three parts, which can be found by clicking on Part I, Part II, and Part III. The post below is a portion of those massive posts, focusing in on a single prospect at a time, which should make a search of any one prospect easier to find. All of our 2016 prospect coverage and write-ups can be found at the Viva El Birdos 2016 Prospects hub.
#3: Edmundo Sosa, SS
Opening Day 2016 Age: 20
2015 Level: Short-season Johnson City
Relevant Numbers: 223 PAs, .185 ISO, 137 wRC+, 19 XBHs, .300/.369/.485
So, what's so great about this guy?
Edmundo Sosa first burst onto the scene in 2013, when he lapped the Dominican Summer League as a seventeen year old, posting a 150 wRC+ in just under 200 plate appearances. He showed an incredibly advanced approach at the plate that summer for a player so young, walking over 11% of the time and striking out just 7.6%. At the time, there was very little power in the bat, but he was at least an average defender and probably a little above at shortstop, while showing those on-base skills. Sure, it's the DSL, and we prospect watchers have been burned badly in the past wishcasting on numbers put up at the lowest levels of pro ball (I still think of Niko Vasquez every once in awhile, and shed a tear or two for what might have been), but that's still the kind of profile you don't often see in a player that young, non-Jurickson Profar division.
In 2014, Sosa came to the States, and held his own playing in the Gulf Coast League at eighteen. His performance in the GCL wasn't as remarkable as his 2013 breakout campaign, but he still put up a better than league average line (109 wRC+), while showing outstanding contact skills again, and an ability to control the strike zone, even against better competition.
Interestingly, Sosa was promoted to short-season State College at the end of the 2014 season, and actually saw three games there while filling in for another injured player, and while he was definitely not ready for that level, there was some optimism coming in to 2015 that he might return to full-season ball as a challenge, much the same way Magneuris Sierra was placed there.
At the end of spring training, however, Sosa was assigned to the complex, and stayed in Florida until Johnson City kicked off its season following the draft in June. Sierra, who was pushed, tanked badly in the Midwest League and was eventually reassigned, while Sosa went out and put together one of his most intriguing performances to date once the season got underway.
Playing at nineteen in the Appalachian League, Sosa continued to show an advanced approach at the plate, though he was more aggressive in attacking pitches in the zone this season than he had been in the past. The big reason for that was probably the ten pounds of muscle he's added to his frame the last couple years, and the fact his loose, fast swing now has enough oomph behind it to do some real damage when he connects. Howard Johnson Field, where the Cardinals play, is a fairly spacious ballpark, 410' to center and spacious in the alleys, and Sosa put seven over the boards in roughly a third of a full season's trips to the plate. There's always a balance to be struck between attacking and controlling the zone, between aggression and patience, and Sosa will have to make sure he finds that balance going forward for himself. In the meantime, the sudden appearance of over-the-fence power for Sosa is an incredibly exciting development.
In the field, Sosa has the arm to make all the throws, and enough range to make most of the plays. He isn't a marvel of arms and legs flying about the way Oscar Mercado is at shortstop, but he's also not nearly so prone to unforced errors and bad throws. He's smooth and advanced for a player his age, even more remarkable given he's from Panama, not know for quality of competition, rather than the Dominican or Venezuela, which have more established traditions of baseball excellence. Bottom line, I think Sosa stays at shortstop easily, and is probably a slightly above-average defender there. Combine that with his increasingly intriguing offensive profile, and I think he possesses the highest ceiling of any positional talent in the Cardinal system right now, with the possible exception of Bryce Denton, who is so far away as to be almost completely opaque at this point.
Player Comp: The Edgar Renteria comp thrown around quite a bit for Sosa isn't a bad one, as he has the same kind of all-around appeal to his game the former Cardinal offered. For most of his career, though, Renteria was very much a singles hitter, while I think there's a decent chance Sosa ends up with a fair bit more power than that. I won't go so far as to suggest Nomar Garciaparra, but somewhere between those two stalwarts of the early 2000s is where I would expect to find Sosa's profile.