Washington Nationals outfielder Juan Soto homered twice and drove in four runs last night against the Philadelphia Phillies. The 19-year-old is Major League Baseball’s newest young phenom to get his shot in the bigs and perform immediately, as if he doesn’t know any better.
Soto has a 1.1 WAR through 35 games and 116 at-bats. His slash line is a meaty .336/.446/.621. He power exploits include eight home runs and nine doubles. Perhaps most impressively, he’s drawn 23 walks against 26 strikeouts, an eyebrow-raising ratio for a player so green.
The Nationals are sitting four games back in the National League East, chasing the upstart Atlanta Braves, a young team that has the potential to come apart down the stretch. Soto has provided a historic lift. Like, a best production from a teenager ever lift.
Highest OPS+ by a teenager *
Minimum 100 plate appearances, since 1901
1. 166 — Juan Soto, 2018 Nationals
2. 146 — Whitey Lockman, 1945 Giants
3. 139 — Mel Ott, 1928 Giants **
4. 137 — Tony Conigliaro, 1964 Red Sox
5. 132 — Ty Cobb, 1906 Tigers**
6. 130 — Jimmie Foxx, 1927 Athletics **
7. 122 — Sherry Magee, 1904 Athletics
8. 119 — Johnny Lush, 1904 Athletics
9. 118 — Bryce Harper, 2012 Nationals
10. 117 — Mickey Mantle, 1951 Yankees **
* Age-19 season or earlier
** Hall of Famer
Impressive stuff. Especially considering Soto came to D.C. with significantly less fanfare than his teammate, then-19-year-old Bryce Harper, in 2012. The season, Harper notched a 5.2 WAR and a .270/.340/.477 slash. The Nationals would love for Soto to regress to that level and would be overjoyed if he kept performing at a Hall of Fame one, though one outcome is more likely.
Then there’s the intangible element. Washington has made the playoffs and faltered so routinely that any jolt of new energy is huge. It allows them and the fanbase to think that this year could be different. Soto is the shiny new toy right now, full of hope and promise. Both for this postseason and the future.