Juan Soto has been tremendous throughout the early stages of his career, but I dont think many people expected him to be this good so soon. Soto got the call to the big leagues last May when injuries to Adam Eaton and top prospect Victor Robles plagued the Nationals outfield. GM Mike Rizzo Turned to Soto, a promising 19 year-old who was hoping his success could translate to the big league club. Soto was absolutely crushing the minors in early 2018 in which produced a 1.218 OPS across 39 games.
Rizzo, was absolutely right. From the moment he saw his first pitch in a Nationals uniform, a pitch he drove over the left field wall, Soto quickly established himself as a household name. Soto batted .290 with 29 dingers and 86 RBIs across 119 MLB games and finished 2nd in rookie of the year voting to Brave’s phenom Ronald Acuna Jr. While Soto has earned the right as one of the best young hitters in baseball, when you dive into the numbers, it’s hard to argue that Soto won’t be a star in this league for years to come.
Soto is an incredibly disciplined hitter, more disciplined than many hall of famers when they debuted. His career 16% walk rate is not only the highest mark ever by a player his age, he is a full 2 percentage points higher than the 2nd best mark which is held by John McGraw. When compared to the current superstars of today’s league, Soto stands out as being the most productive at such a young age.
When compared to Bryce Harper, who was Soto’s former teammate and once coveted prize of the Nationals, it’s not even close. At that age, Harper was not nearly as productive as Soto is now. In his first two seasons, Harper slashed .272/.353/.481. Soto is slashing .291/.404/.537 which is better than Harper in his first two years and better than the Phillies star right now. Soto has also seen an uptick in his power numbers. This year he became the 3rd player to reach 50 home runs by the age of 20. The record of 61 held by Mel Ott is still very much in reach with a full month of the season still remaining and the Nationals performing as one of the hottest lineups in baseball. He currently has 29 home runs to go along with 86 RBIs and 12 stolen bases and has bumped his slugging percentage from .517 his rookie year to a .557 slugging percentage.
When comparing OPS during each of their first seasons with at least 100 games played, one could argue that Soto was the most consistent out of any of the players mentioned above. After their first seasons, Soto finished with an OPS of .923, only trailing Mike Trout (.963) in a year that he would finish runner up in the MVP voting. Mike Trout may as well be the best player we have ever seen and for Soto to be right on par with him statistically is no laughing matter.
While Soto’s never been labeled as a great fielder, he is young enough that he can still develop. According to MLB’s statcast, he ranks just above league average in sprint speed covering 27.2ft/s and ranks in the 74th percentile in outfield jump, which measures how quickly a fielder reacts off the bat. His fielding is what likely keeps Soto muffled in the pack of other mid 20s stars. His 7.3 WAR while impressive, does not matchup with players like Alex Bregman who has an 18.8 career WAR. Regardless, Fangraphs ranks him as a much better fielder than he was his rookie year and he only has room to continue improving.
Overall, Washington has got to be very satisfied with what they’re seeing out of Soto who is under contract until 2025. There’s plenty for the Nationals to look forward to. Soto has been a crucial part to their success. While much of the talk around the league this year has gone to other NL east stars like Bryce Harper, Ronald Acuna, and Pete Alonso, Soto, continues to quietly impress and work his way up to being one of the brightest young stars in all of baseball.