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Juan Soto: MLB’s Next Power-Hitting Star

When the Washington Nationals lost Bryce Harper to the Philadelphia Phillies this last offseason, it left a power vacuum in the nation’s capital for the next power-hitting stud. Juan Soto has taken full advantage and become a young phenom in Major League Baseball.

Next Harper?

If you asked Juan Soto if he wanted to be the next Bryce Harper, he would probably say “No, I want to be Juan Soto” or something along those lines. That’s generally how the cliche goes. However, so far through their respective age 19 and 20 seasons, Soto should not be trying to replicate Harper because he has been better.

Both Soto and Harper made their MLB debuts at age 19. Harper’s rookie season ended with him as an All-Star and winning Rookie of the Year in 2012. Last year’s rookie campaign did not see Soto become an All-Star and he was beat out by Ronald Acuna Jr. for Rookie of the Year. Not a bad guy to lose to, however. 

By The Numbers

Let’s look at some numbers. Harper had a batting average of .270 as a rookie, slugging .477 and cranking 22 home runs. In addition, here is what his spray chart looked like in 2012.

(courtesy of FanGraphs)

Soto’s rookie season yielded even more impressive numbers with a similar spray chart to Harper. His 2018 rookie year ended with a .292 batting average, slugging percentage of .517 and 22 home runs.

(courtesy of FanGraphs)

Harper was able to use the opposite side of the field a bit better than Soto, but the statistics still back up Soto here. He flatout had a better rookie season than Bryce Harper.

Now, Harper emerged as a solidified top-tier superstar in 2015. He won MVP, batted .330, and led the league in six offensive categories. 2017 was a similar season for Harper, but he has yet to have nearly that same success outside of that one year. Regardless, he hit 34 home runs last year and led the league in walks. Unfortunately, his batting average dipped to just .249. 

Soto was much better for the Nats last year, and he currently has Harper beat in just about everything offensively. Soto’s slash line of .290/.402/.553 is much better than Harper’s .253/.372/.500. He also has one more home run than Harper. Soto has struck out 104 times to Harper’s 148 in roughly the same number of plate appearances as well.

When looking at the spray charts, guess who takes pitches the other way at a higher rate now? That’s right, it’s Soto. A subtle difference, but one that adds up over the course of 162 games. 

(courtesy of FanGraphs)
(courtesy of FanGraphs)

Postseason

The knock on Harper during his time in D.C was the postseason success, or lack thereof. The Nationals never made it past the NLDS, and Harper was partially to blame. He holds a pedestrian .211 batting average and just five home runs through 19 career playoff performances. Soto and the Nats missed out on the 2018 playoffs, but are in the thick of the NL Wild Card race. Washington fans will be hoping for better postseason production from Soto.

Young Studs

Moving away from the Harper comparisons, let’s stack Soto up against some of the other top position players that entered the league at a similar age. 

PlayerTeamRookie AgeRookie SeasonBatting AverageOPS+RBI’s Awards
Juan
Soto
Washington
Nationals
192018.29214270None
Ronald
Acuna
Jr.
Atlanta
Braves
202018.29314364ROY
Adalberto
Mondesi
Kansas City
Royals
202016.1853713None
FranciscoLindorCleveland
Indians 
202015.31312151None
Rougned
Odor
Texas
Rangers
202014.2599348None
Luis Urias*San Diego
Padres
222019.2047114N/A
Harrison
Bader
St. Louis
Cardinals
242018.26410737None
Willy
Adames
Tampa Bay
Rays
222018.27810834None
Victor
Robles
*
Washington Nationals 222019.2509156N/A

*= rookie season still in progress

Juan Soto has shown that he is in the big leagues to stay. He has outperformed a lot of other guys his age and he is overall, a polished product.

Looking Ahead

The 2019 season has treated Juan Soto well. He is hitting .287 with 29 home runs and an OPS+ of 139. He has more than solidified his status as the next young star in Washington. In addition, Soto’s defensive abilities have also been on display this year, sporting a perfect fielding percentage. The only question for Soto now is simple, however. How great will he become?

Author Twitter: @Noush9602

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