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Prospect Soto may shift to third base

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Listed on the Reds' 40-man roster as a first baseman, Neftali Soto's path to the Major Leagues is about as unclear as any. With franchise player Joey Votto under contract until after the 2023 season, Soto has a small chance of seeing consistent playing time in Cincinnati at first base.

But as the prospect's numbers continue to grow, the club is trying to figure out a way to place him on a realistic route to the big leagues. One option is moving him to third base, where he played 96 Minor League games in 2009 before moving across the field.

"They're talking about it, because he came up a third baseman, then really improved as a first baseman," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "Those two positions are mirror images, plus he has a good throwing arm. So, he could play third base."

Soto hit .272 with 30 home runs in 2011 for Double-A Carolina. Last season, he hit another 14 long balls for Triple-A Louisville, despite battling back spasms for a chunk of the year.

"He's got some pop in his bat. He hits the ball to right or right-center," said Baker about the right-handed hitter. "I heard last year, early, he got in trouble trying pull, then in the second half, he got back to being himself. I see people change kids all the time. I can teach you to pull, but it's hard for me to teach you to hit the opposite way. So, he's got a big start on a lot of hitters, especially when you can hit the ball out of the ballpark to right-center. When you can do that, you can hit."

This spring, Soto is 4-for-9 with a double and two RBIs.