Background + Path to the MLB
Juan Soto is a twenty-two year old left-fielder from Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic. He plays for the Washington Nationals, the team that he signed with as an international free agent at the age of sixteen during the 2015 J2 signing period for amateur free agents from foreign countries. Juan Soto received a $1.5 million dollar signing bonus when he decided to become a professional baseball player, and the large amount he received showed how talented he was at the beginning of his pro career and how highly the Nationals’ scouting department and front office thought of him. Juan Soto grew up an avid baseball fan, and his father encouraged him throughout his childhood to pursue his dream of being a professional baseball player, and this played a major factor in the path Soto took to superstardom.
Juan Soto began his professional baseball career in 2016 at the age of 17, torching opposing pitchers in Rookie and A-(Low-A) ball in 51 games with a .368 batting average, getting on base 42% of the time, and slugging .553 for a .973 OPS(On-Base % + Slugging %). In 2017, Soto only played 32 games as he suffered ankle and hamstring injuries throughout the season, but he put a similar performance at the A-Ball affiliate for the Nationals. In 2018, he demolished A+ and AA, almost batting .400 and slugging over .700, hitting 14 home runs in only 39 games while walking more than he struck out. Juan Soto made his MLB debut on May 20th, 2018, becoming the youngest player in the MLB to play in the 2018 season, and the first person born in 1998(the same year I was born) to play in the MLB. Juan Soto placed second in voting for National League Rookie of the Year behind Ronald Acuña Jr., another young Afro-Latino player that I wrote an article on in this series. They both put together historic seasons in many different facets, whether it be by age or for rookies.
Since his professional debut in 2016, Juan Soto has been one of the best baseball players in every professional league he’s participated in, and the stats show it. In his three seasons in the minor leagues from the ages of 17–19 years old, Soto ripped a hole in the space-time continuum with his absurdly elite performance, putting up a .362/.462/.609 slash-line while facing competition that was on average 3–5 years older than him, adjusting to living in the United States and learning English, and being away from his family. He’s never even logged a plate appearance at the Triple-A(AAA) level of the minor leagues, completely skipping it when he got called up to the major league roster. At the major league level, he’s been 51% better(151 OPS+) than the average MLB player offensively in the 313 games he’s played so far. OPS+ is a stat that calculates how effective a major league hitter is in the plate appearances he makes in a certain year, and adjusts itself based on the ballparks the hitters have played in, the years they played, and the statistical performance of their peers. Basically, Juan Soto is probably better than your favorite baseball player at the plate.
Juan Soto is 6'1'’, and 220 pounds, and he bats and throws left-handed. I’m going to be very simple with this next statement so you guys can understand how special he is: Juan Soto is a top 5 hitter on the planet Earth right now, and there’s no reasonable case where anyone can say otherwise, and I will probably say something similar to this 1000 times in this article. Juan Soto can literally do whatever he wants when he’s in the batter’s box and he has a bat in his hands, and so far he has done whatever he wants. Juan Soto has an all fields approach, and is able to drive the ball deep to all fields for extra base hits, as he also has elite game power in addition to his above average contact skills. The chart below shows every hit Juan Soto has so far in his career, and it also shows he is an artist in the batter’s box.
What makes Juan Soto such a special hitter is his understanding of how pitchers work: He knows what they throw, when they throw it, where in or out the strike zone they’re going to throw, amongst the many other facets that go into baseball. Juan Soto has the best vision in the MLB when it comes to discerning balls and strikes, and he uses this to get on base at an elite rate. So far, Juan Soto has a 16.9% walk rate, which is pretty much double the MLB average. This, combined with his elite eye for discerning what pitches to attack, what pitches to lay off of, and his elite ability to hit for power, makes him a once in a generation hitter. Soto’s ability to make contact is just as good as his eye at the plate, as he consistently hits the ball hard, does not swing and miss much, and has great bat control. His strikeout rate hovers around 20%, but that is due to his almost patented approach of working deep into counts, and a rule of thumb is that with most hitters that have a similar approach, the strikeouts are a byproduct of a high walk rate and a lot of plate appearances with 2–2 and 3–2 counts.
From a baserunning standpoint, Soto will not hurt you on the bases but he won’t remind you of Rickey Henderson by any means. Soto has a high baseball IQ and he hustles, so it makes up for below average sprint speed he posses. Defensively, his profile is similar. Juan Soto plays left field, and can also moonlight in right due to his strong throwing arm. He does not have the best range, but defensively he is more than competent, and his work ethic has become renown in a short period of time. Soto has improved in every facet of the game since making his debut at the age of 19, setting high expectations and exceeding them. He has become one of the faces of baseball, especially among the deep waves of young Afro-Latino talent that has taken baseball by storm during the second half of the 2010s, and rightfully so. The combination of elite performance to go along with the youth that Juan Soto posseses makes him one of, if not the most valuable player in baseball.
Juan Soto is a once in a generation baseball player for a multitude of reasons. Due to the nature and structure of the sport, it is uncommon to see teenagers reach the MLB level, let alone perform at an elite level as soon as they step under the bright lights. Juan Soto offers this, along with a vibrant personality, maturity, a strong work ethic, and the ability to lead by example. Soto is known to be a quick learner, making leaps and bounds in his development as a professional baseball player in the minor leagues that led to his quick ascent through the Washington Nationals farm system on the fast track to superstardom. Juan Soto already has a World Series ring on his resumé, to go with a Silver Slugger, and a top ten National League MVP finish. In my opinion, Soto is nowhere near done racking up accolades, as he has a plethora of records based on age and games played already. Juan Soto is an anomaly in every positive sense of the word, and his greatness deserves to be acknowledged.
Juan Soto Stats | Baseball-Reference.com
2020: 13 HR, .351 BA (1st), 37 RBI,Career: 69 HR, .295 BA, 217 RBI, LF, Nationals 2018-2020, b:L/t:L, 1x BA Leader…
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Juan Soto Statcast, Visuals & Advanced Metrics | MLB.com
(ALL) Avg Exit Velocity: 91.4, Hard Hit %: 46.3, wOBA: .404, xwOBA: .405, Barrel %: 12.2.
Juan Soto is a very quick learner. Just listen to his English.
Juan Soto paused mid-sentence, stared into the tablecloth in front of him and motioned with his hands as if he were…