Juan Soto’s unthinkable 2018 rise just became more, well, unthinkable. The Washington Nationals have called up their 19-year-old wunderkind, effective Sunday, May 20.
Juan Soto being called up to the #Nats, a source with knowledge of the situation confirmed. He is expected to join the Nats in D.C. for sunday— Byron Kerr (@masnKerr) May 20, 2018
It’s simply remarkable. With just 453 career minor league at bats to his name, and just 238 at full-season ball, Soto is already a big leaguer. For any of those lucky to see him even just once, it’s pretty easy to understand why.
For those who haven’t, here’s what you need to know.
The MLB youth rebellion continues
It seems just a few weeks ago the Atlanta Braves were being touted for having the three youngest players in baseball. Well, before the calendar even turns to June, they now have the second three youngest players in baseball.
Juan Soto somehow making Ronald Acuña's incredible rise through the minors last year look downright conservative.— Ben Badler (@BenBadler) May 20, 2018
Soto is 19-years-old and will be for the remainder of the season. He was signed out of the Dominican Republic at the age of 16 and debuted in the GCL at age 17, taking home MVP honors. Soto was tearing up the South Atlantic League in 2017 to a .360/.427/.523 slash line when an injury cut short his season after just 23 games. The Nationals started him off back in the SAL this season, but he skipped three levels quickly and after raking in Double-A, the outfield deprived Nationals skipped him over Triple-A and to The Show.
The power is for real
I saw Juan Soto on April 5 in Rome (you can read the detailed report from that game here). Now, on May 20, he is a big league ball player. That is unimaginable.
(“[Soto] really has a pretty simplistic swing. His hands start helmet high and drop to his shoulders as he muscles his smooth left-handed swing through the zone.” Video courtesy of the Minor League Prospect Video Page.)
It is tough to find a weakness in Soto’s game, but the power is awe-inspiring to watch. Soto took the second pitch of the 2018 MiLB season over the left field fence.
Soto saw two pitches in his first at bat. The first he took for a ball. The second he sent opposite field over the left field wall. It was a decisive shot as well, gone the second it left the bat. I haven’t seen many, if any, home runs since starting to cover the South Atlantic League three years ago as impressive. The speed and strength in which his bat connected, paired with the ability to take a fastball the other way is certainly something that proves his lofty prospect ranking.
Soto, a left-handed swinger, launched an opposite fielder that easily pushed 350 to 375 and if there was statcast in the minors, it would have shown that ball left the park in a hurry. And perhaps that is the biggest takeaway. Soto has big power and he can sling it around the field with relative ease.
The power didn’t stop in Hagerstown, either. Soto was promoted to High-A after slugging five home runs in the Sally, and then promoted to Double-A after hitting seven home runs in 15 games in the Carolina League. After two more home runs there, he is heading to Washington with 14 home runs in 39 games.
There isn’t a tool Soto doesn’t have
Soto isn’t a one-trick pony. He is dominant in every aspect of the game, making Victor Robles look pedestrian at times. His speed is fun to watch, which helps him in both the field and out of the box. I don’t know that he’ll ever be able to match the stolen base production with his home run production, but there is no denying he has wheels.
I saw Juan Soto Opening Day in Single-A. Think about that for a second. Plus-plus power 4.07 to first base. Insane he’s already going to be in the big leagues.— Chris Blessing (@C_Blessing) May 20, 2018
Our own John Sickels had him ranked No. 2 behind Robles in the Nationals farm system to start the year, and No. 40 overall in his Top 175. He has stated several times this year that he felt that Soto propelled him into the top five conversation, but now he may never get that chance, quite possibly seeing his last MiLB at bat. Here’s what John said:
Age 19, signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2015, hit .351/.415/.505 with 12 walks, nine strikeouts in 111 at-bats between Low-A and rookie ball injury rehab; missed most of season with ankle, hamstring, and hamate injuries but hit the hell out of the ball when healthy; although I am normally cautious about players with sample-size issues, in this case I believe what Soto did is a fair representation of his true ability; excellent bat speed with good plate discipline, easy swing, and mature approach, should produce both power and average at maturity along with solid right field defense; one of my favorites. ETA 2020.
Just look at his numbers across the board. Soto was slashing .362/.462/.757 with an astounding 1.218 OPS over his three levels of play, arguably the best player in minor league baseball not named Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. Like Vladdy, he has an advanced awareness at the plate, making adjustments to pitchers both in game and in at bats. He’s walked 29 times and has struck out 28, a combo you don’t see too often in a 19-year-old.
While the Nationals are limited in their options for the outfield, you can be sure they didn’t gamble on Soto’s service clock to have him sit on the bench. Expect Soto to jump right into the starting lineup, and if his minor league track record has anything to show, it may not take him too long to get adjusted at all.