Geovany Soto is currently the starting catcher for a team with the league's third highest payroll.
He currently bears the sixth lowest salary on the Cubs.
So, why does the success of the Chicago Cubs in 2011 hinge so much on the success of Soto?
Let's look at a few stats.
In 2009, Soto's sophomore season, his numbers at the plate went as such: 331 AB, 27 R, 72 H, 19 2B, 11 HR, 53 RBI and a brutal .218 AVG.
The Cubs subsequently finished five games over .500 and missed the playoffs.
These numbers, however, look nothing similar to Soto's stat sheet in his rookie campaign ('08): 494 AB, 66 R, 141 H, 35 2B, 23 HR, 86 RBI and an impressive .285 AVG.
Chicago ultimately won the NL Central with a 97-64 record.
Does anyone see the correlation?
A catcher's production can make or break the success of an organization. That is not only determined by success or lack thereof at the plate, but in the field as well.
It is a catcher's innate duty to be a leader on the field. He selects what pitch should be thrown, he backs up bases on ground balls and he takes hits on close plays at the plate.
Plain and simple: If a team's catcher is underperforming, it could be costly to the team's success.
In Geo's case, the drop-off in skill between he and backup Koyie Hill is huge.
The Cubs desperately need Geovany Soto to return to the production he had as a rookie. Said production earned him NL Rookie of the Year honors and a trip to the All-Star Game.
Soto will prove to be a menacing bat in the middle of the Cubs lineup, as long as he can work out his issues in spring training. The Cubs expect Soto to bat either fifth or sixth in the batting order, depending on the matchups.
Having said all of this, it has become quite clear that Geovany Soto could be the key to the Cubs' chances of being a serious contender in the National League Central—a division with four solid baseball teams in it.
103rd time's the charm. Right, boys?