Soto (Watch Video), 24, enjoyed the best year of his career while with Class AAA Iowa this season, leading the farm system with a .353 batting average, 26 home runs and 109 RBIs in 110 games. Behind the plate, he threw out 31 percent of opposing runners (19 caught stealing in 61 attempts).
Soto was previously named the Pacific Coast League’s Most Valuable Player and the 2007 InsideTheIvy.com Player of the Year for his efforts.
Recalled to Chicago on Sept. 1, Soto is batting .387 (12-for-31) with two home runs and four RBIs in 11 games. He hit a game-tying solo home run off Reds starter Tom Shearn in Wednesday’s 3-2 Cubs win over Cincinnati.
“Offensively, he’s had off-the-chart improvement to where he’s really seemed to figure out what it takes to be successful,” Cubs Assistant General Manager Randy Bush recently said of Soto. “He knows how to look for pitches and knows how to make adjustments with two strikes. He was already a very good defensive catcher and he’s improved himself in that area. All-around, he’s put himself in a position to be in the big leagues for a long, long time.”
The Cubs selected Soto in the 11th round of the 2001 draft.
Hart (Watch Video), 24, was named Pitcher of the Year after finishing tied with the most wins (12) and strikeouts (131) in the farm system this season. He was 12-6 with a 3.99 ERA in 158 innings between Iowa and Class AA Tennessee, winning 10 of his last 11 decisions between the two clubs and posting a 2.80 ERA from June 1 through the end of the season.
Called up to Chicago on Sept. 4, Hart has yielded one run on five hits in 7 2/3 innings with the Cubs, striking out eight batters and walking two.
“The biggest thing about him to me is that he’s got a winner’s mentality,” Iowa manager Buddy Bailey recently said of Hart. “He thinks he’s supposed to win every time he throws and when he gets in tough spots, he still believes he’s going to get out of them. He finds a way to do that most of the time.”
The Cubs acquired Hart from Baltimore last December in a trade that sent INF/OF Freddie Bynum to the Orioles. He was selected by Baltimore in the 11th round of the 2004 draft.
Past winners of the Cubs’ annual awards were pitchers Rich Hill and Donald Veal in 2006; INF Eric Patterson and RHP Sean Gallagher in 2005; and INF Brian Dopirak and LHP Renyel Pinto in 2004.