If you are a regular here at Fake Teams, Juan Soto’s emergence is no surprise to you. Eddy Almaguer (now of Baseball Prospectus) tabbed Soto as a guy he was trying to acquire back in November of 2017, back when Soto had just turned 19 years old. From that article:
“...he’s a top 50 dude in multiple sites because of his great approach at the plate and raw power from the left side. In 123 plate appearances Soto struck out just nine times. He has the pop and hit tool to be a consistent .280, 25-to-30 HR hitter.”
Soto was the No. 28 prospect in our Fake Teams Top 100, compiled by Eddy, Brian Creagh, and Joe Gentile back in February of this year. From that article:
“As a left-handed outfielder Soto is mostly projection at this point, but some believe 20+ HR power may come around to pair with his already plus bat-to-ball skills. He has an incredible approach for such a young age, and while we need a larger sample of Soto to get a clearer picture of what the upside might be, bet on him climbing higher if he stays healthy.”
Three days ago Matt Williams discussed Soto after his call-up, citing minor league numbers and upside. I agree with Matt—Soto seems to have the confidence of the big league club, and that makes him a potential league-winning addition to any fantasy baseball roster.
Fast forward to today, and Soto is 3-for-6 with a home run, three runs, three RBIs, and three walks through a pair of MLB starts. On Monday his power was on display, as Soto finished 2-for-4 with his first big league home run. On Tuesday Soto showcased his patience, finishing 1-for-1 with three walks. Consider this achievement:
The complete list of teenagers who've walked three times in a game in the last 40 years:— Eddie Matz (@ESPNeddiematz) May 23, 2018
Pretty cool company to keep, eh? Soto had this to say after his three-walk game:
Juan Soto said it wasn't hard to lay off bad pitches as the Padres walked him three times. "I know the strike zone, and the umpires are better here. So I take advantage of that. I know they don’t want to throw me a pitch to hit too hard. Maybe just be patient and see my pitch.”— Chelsea Janes (@chelsea_janes) May 23, 2018
Naturally, baseball enthusiasts are salivating after a comment like that from a 19-year-old. For my part, I’ve added Soto everywhere and suggest you do the same. Surely you can find someone to drop, even in a league with a short bench. At this juncture of the year I am happy to chase upside. It’s also encouraging to me that outfield is a replaceable position. For example, if Soto struggles I can cut him and add a guy like Travis Jankowski, who is owned in only 30% of Yahoo leagues.
Soto homered in his first big league start. In his second big league start he drew three walks, something only one other teenager has done in the last 40 years. In his third start (today) the Nationals are letting him bat him second in the lineup, sandwiched between Trea Turner and Bryce Harper. With Ryan Zimmerman, Daniel Murphy, Adam Eaton, Howie Kendrick, Brian Goodwin, and Matt Wieters on the DL, the Nationals are in a spot where they could use some punch in their lineup.
The Nationals rank 8th in team ISO (.168) but are 20th in batting average (.239) and 22nd in strikeout percentage (21.0%). They are still potent enough with Turner, Harper, Rendon, and the upstart Matt Adams anchoring the upper part of the lineup. But it’s clear they could use some more punch, as third place in the NL East isn’t exactly what they had in mind when the season began.
It’s too soon to say much about Soto, except that he’s shown an ability to be patient and the expectation is a 20-30 home run type of guy. How soon that power develops, we won’t know. But if today’s batting order slot is any indication, it’s clear that Soto will be given a chance to produce in a premier spot in the lineup. And worst case, perhaps he’ll hit sixth as he did in his first two starts. Not a bad spot to be in a stacked lineup, if that’s the worst case scenario.
Let’s play a semi-fun game: Who are the players you cut for Juan Soto? I’ll start with mine: Luis Castillo, Yonder Alonso, and Jon Gray. That’s right, I snagged him in three of my eleventy billion leagues. How did you all do?
Oh, I nearly forgot. This entire article is to tell you to ADD HIM NOW in case you failed to listen to Matt three days ago. Soto is already 65% owned in Yahoo, so he’s too popular to make this week’s edition of Wire Warriors. Life comes at you fast.