Washington Nationals: Welcome to Superstardom, Juan Soto

(Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
(Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images) /

The Washington Nationals have won the 2019 World Series, and they could not have done so without their 21-year-old star Juan Soto rising to superstardom this October.

The Washington Nationals entered 2019 with their fair share of doubts. Would Max Scherzer be able to remain dominant in his age-35 season? Would the bullpen be able to hold up in the age of relief pitching? These were all valid questions, yet the most pressing uncertainty revolved around how the team would perform with their former star, outfielder Bryce Harper, leaving the Nation’s Capital for Philadelphia.

The Nationals knew better than to worry, believing that blossoming superstar outfielder Juan Soto was capable of filling Harper’s shoes. With an incredible October that helped the Nationals finally win a Commissioner’s Trophy, the newly-turned 21-year-old Soto has announced his arrival as one of the game’s true superstars.

Soto is a seemingly perfect concoction of the clashing styles of play in today’s game. He has the offensive approach of a seasoned veteran, displaying a level of patience at the plate virtually unheard of for a player of his age. He also carries himself with extreme confidence, playing with a type of swagger and brashness that makes him one of the most entertaining players in the game.

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Admittedly, it was only a matter of time until baseball fans realized what Soto was capable of. He finds himself in rarified air through this stage of his career. According to Fangraphs, Soto has the eighth-highest regular season wRC+ of all-time, for players 21 years old or younger. The seven above him, in order, are Mike Trout, Jimmie Fox, Ted Williams, Rogers  Hornsby, Ty Cobb, Mel Ott, and Mickey Mantle. In virtually every aspect of his game, Soto finds himself among incredibly impressive company.

Among that same group, Soto has the highest walk-rate, which supports just how rare his control of the strike zone is for someone so young. He also ranks third in isolated power, behind only Eddie Matthews and Williams. To suggest that Soto has been one of the most impressive young phenoms ever is not an exaggeration, and his performance this October only corroborates that belief.

In the 2019 postseason, Soto may have actually been the most important player.  Overall, he slashed .277/.373/.554, while compiling 5 HRs and 14 RBIs. While impressive, this stat line undermines just how impactful he was. According to “Championship Win Probability Added” (cWPA), a statistic measured by The Baseball Gauge, Soto’s RBI single in the eighth inning of Game 7 of the World Series was the second-most valuable hit of the entire postseason, trailing only teammate Howie Kendrick‘s go-ahead HR in the same game.

Yet, Soto’s impact was felt over the course of the entire postseason. No player in baseball had a higher total cWPA this postseason than Soto, who’s 0.411 mark is the fifth-highest of the entire decade.

Not only did Soto shine on baseball’s brightest stage, but he did so with the swagger that MLB is attempting to embrace. From the “Soto Shuffle”, to the carrying of his bat to first base following a momentum-shifting home run in WS Game 6, every Soto at-bat was a must-watch this month.

Juan Soto was a driving force behind the Washington Nationals triumphant postseason and is now set to lead the team through the next decade, as the young outfielder is just beginning to tap into his potential. He delivered D.C. its first World Series and celebrated both the win and his 21st birthday accordingly.

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For at least the next year, the Commissioner’s Trophy resides in the Nation’s Captial. Juan Soto, who may be the league’s next gripping, talented superstar, is set to reign in the city for much longer.