Let me know if this sounds familiar: Nationals sign up, and coming outfielder, plays fantastic, Scott Boras client and already talk about him leaving the team, or what will it take for him to stay with the Nationals.
Yeah, if you think that this sounds like the situation with Bryce Harper, you are right. I was upset to see Bryce leave the Nationals and then go to the Phillies, but winning a world series defiantly helped me forget all about Bryce Harper and what he meant to the Nationals. I mean, who can hate him now? He wanted to bring a World Championship to D.C., and he made it happen without being on the team!
Okay, enough about Bryce Harper, let’s talk about Juan Soto and why the Learners need and must sign him before he even gets to free agency. I know that that is a dream mainly because we all know that Boras’s clients rarely don’t hit free agency (okay, forget about Stephen Strasburg). Still, I believe that Soto is not only the future but a fantastic player, and he is going to only get better with more experience and age. Here are the three reasons in my mind on why the Nationals can’t let Soto walk ever!
Reason #1: For the Love of the Game
From watching from afar, you can quickly see how much Juan loves playing the game of baseball and everything about baseball. The famous “Soto Shuffle,” in 2019 and now the endless gifs with him dancing on the dugout while cheering on his teammates, it seems that Juan Soto loves being around baseball and even more playing the game. I think that as he gets older and even more comfortable being in the big leagues, he is going to be just a fantastic player to watch, and his passion is something that you can’t associate a dollar amount.
Reason #2: He is just a fantastic player
During the week of August 10th, Juan Soto hit two huge home runs at Citi Park off some good pitching. On Monday, August 10th, he just launched a home run that went 463 feet and cleared the Big Apple at Citi Field. Jared Diamond a Wall Street Journal baseball writer, mentioned that homerun is the third-farthest hit ball at Citi Field in the Statcast era (since 2015). Only Kyle Schwarber (467 ft) and Freddie Freeman (464 ft) had longer home runs.
Additionally, Soto’s Monday night home run went further than any home run by a New York Mets player at Citi Field in the Statcast era. And lastly, (if that wasn’t enough), according to Jared, Soto’s home run was the farthest home run hit by a Mets player is 458 feet by Pete Alonso last June. Fast forward to two days later, when Soto hit another massive homerun that went 466 ft and had a 33-degree launch angle and was the hardest-hit home run of his career at 112.9 mph off his bat.
That’s just at the plate. Juan Soto has also become a great left fielder. Last year he was a finalist for the Gold Glove in left field, in his second year in the majors! Soto appeared in 150 games in left field and only had two, yes you read that number correctly, two errors, had 273 putouts (which ranked #1 in the MLB in 2019) which yielded a fielding percentage of .993 (which ranked #4 out of all the outfielders in the NL in 2019).
Reason #3: In-Game Adjustments
Being only 21 years old and only having two seasons under his belt, one would think that it would take time to adjust to the pace of playing in the major’s and even changing to day to day what types of pitches you are seeing. However, according to Davey Martinez, “He [Juan Soto] makes in-game adjustments better than any young hitter I’ve ever seen.” Making in-game adjustments, I am sure a hard to do even as a Veteran player, but being able to make those adjustments in your second year in the league and at the age of 21 can’t be easy.
What makes Juan Soto, so effective? Start with Patience and Power and then add some quality of contact and you get an amazing player. In 2019, among the players who had a slugging percentage of over .500, Soto ranks 8th lowest out of the zone swing rate, so Soto waits for his pitch and has a great feel for the strike zone. Pitchers rarely get him to chase a pitch outside the zone, and if they do, he rarely gets fooled twice.
We all know that the Learners are very fiscally responsible and do not want to exceed the Competitive Balance Tax whenever possible and pick specific spots in offering big contracts. Still, I think you must throw caution to the wind with Soto and make him a National for life. Some might say that in 2025 (when Soto’s contract is over), the Nationals will have to choose between Robles and Soto, I don’t even think that there is even a choice because I would choose Soto every day of the week.
Soto has the potential to become the “the face of the Nationals franchise,” or even “the face of the game,” and that’s saying a lot for a 21-year-old. I really hope that the Learners just make him an offer he can’t refuse and make him a National for life.