Soto with the Washington Nationals in 2020
|Washington Nationals – No. 22|
|Born: October 25, 1998|
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
|May 20, 2018, for the Washington Nationals|
|MLB statistics |
(through 2020 season)
|Runs batted in||217|
|Career highlights and awards|
Juan José Soto Pacheco (born October 25, 1998), nicknamed "Childish Bambino", is a Dominican professional baseball outfielder for the Washington Nationals of Major League Baseball (MLB). Soto signed with the Nationals as an international free agent in 2015. He made his MLB debut in 2018. In 2020, he led the National League in batting average with .351.
Early life and family
Soto was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, to Juan Soto, Sr. and Belkis Pacheco. He has an older sister and younger brother. His father, a salesman, was a catcher in a local men's league and encouraged his son to make baseball his passion.
Soto signed with the Washington Nationals as an international free agent in July 2015. He made his professional debut in 2016 with the Gulf Coast League Nationals in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League and was named the Gulf Coast League MVP after hitting .368 with five home runs and 32 runs batted in (RBIs). In September 2016 he was promoted to the Auburn Doubledays of the Class A-Short Season New York-Penn League for the final few games of the 2016 season. Appearing in six games for the Doubledays, he went 9-for-21 (.429) with three doubles and an RBI. He finished the 2016 season with an overall batting average of .368, five home runs, and 32 RBIs.
Promoted to play with the Hagerstown Suns of the Class A South Atlantic League in 2017, Soto got off to a hot start before injuring his ankle while sliding into home in a game on May 2 and landing on the disabled list. At the time of his injury, he was batting .360 with three home runs in 23 games with the Suns. In July 2017, MLB Pipeline ranked Soto the Nationals' second-best prospect and the 42nd-best among all prospects. Soto did not return to the Suns in 2017, but he had two rehabilitation stints with the Gulf Coast Nationals, one of five games in July 2017 and a second one of four games in September 2017 before injuring his hamstring and finally being shut down for the season. In those nine games with the Gulf Coast League Nationals, he went 8-for-25 (.320) with a double, a triple, and four RBIs, and finished the 2017 season with a batting average of .351, three home runs, and 18 RBIs.
Soto entered 2018 as one of the minor leagues' top prospects. He started the season with the Hagerstown Suns, hitting .373 in 16 games with five home runs and 24 RBIs, before being promoted early in the season to the Potomac Nationals in the Class A-Advanced Carolina League. After 15 games with Potomac, in which he hit .371 with seven home runs and 18 RBIs, he was promoted to play with the Harrisburg Senators in the Class AA Eastern League. He had appeared in eight games for the Senators, going 10-for-31 (.323) with two doubles, two home runs, and 10 RBIs, when on May 20, 2018, the Washington Nationals called him up to the major leagues for the first time to reinforce their outfield after an injury to second baseman and outfielder Howie Kendrick.
Soto made his major-league debut on May 20, 2018, becoming the youngest player in the major leagues at 19 years, 207 days, and the first player born in 1998 to appear in a major-league game. He came on as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning of a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., and struck out swinging against right-handed relief pitcher Erik Goeddel.
Soto made his first major-league start the next day, playing left field in a game against the San Diego Padres at Nationals Park, and on the first pitch of his first plate appearance of the game, got his first major-league hit, a 422 ft (129 m) opposite-field three-run homer off of Robbie Erlin. After rounding the bases and returning to the dugout, Soto stepped back out for a curtain call from the crowd. He became the youngest player in franchise history to hit a home run and the first teenager to homer in a major-league game since Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper did it at age 19 in 2012. "He's a special player," Harper said of Soto after the game. Soto became the youngest major league player since Ken Griffey Jr. in 1989 to be intentionally walked in a game when Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter elected to do so rather than give him an opportunity to drive in a run on May 29.
On June 2018, shortly after being called up to the major leagues, Baseball America listed Soto as the Nationals' top prospect, overtaking fellow outfielder Víctor Robles, and the fourth-best overall prospect in baseball. Soto contributed to a notable oddity when he hit a home run against the New York Yankees on June 18, 2018. The contest began on May 15, 2018, but was suspended until June 18 due to inclement weather with the score at 3–3. Since the stoppage occurred in the fifth inning, a team would have been awarded the win if they were ahead, which implied that he had technically hit a home run before his MLB debut. To prevent confusion, it was added in sequence to his already accrued home run total as his sixth home run. He had hit three home runs in his first five plate appearances against the Yankees.
On June 21, he started as the cleanup hitter for the first time in the major leagues, against the Baltimore Orioles. He doubled home the winning run in a 4–2 victory. Soto's first multi-home run game came on June 13, 2018, against the New York Yankees, and he repeated the feat on June 29, 2018, at Citizens Bank Park against the Philadelphia Phillies, tallying two home runs, four hits, and five RBIs as the Nationals defeated the Phillies 17–7. Soto had another multi-home run game against the Phillies on September 11, 2018, going 3-for-4 with four RBIs in the second game of a doubleheader. In 2018, he batted a slash line of .292/.406/.517 with 79 walks (10th in the NL), 22 home runs, and 70 RBIs in 414 at-bats, and was the youngest player in the NL. He finished second in voting for NL Rookie of the Year.
On August 19, 2019, Soto became only the fourth player in MLB history to record 100 extra-base hits before his 21st birthday, joining Mel Ott, Tony Conigliaro, and his former teammate, Bryce Harper. He later became the seventh MLB player in history to reach 30 home runs before their 21st birthday. In 2019, he batted .282/.401/.548 with 110 runs (7th), 108 walks (3rd), 34 home runs, and 110 RBIs (9th) as he stole 12 bases in 13 attempts and was the 4th-youngest player in the NL.
With the Nationals trailing the Milwaukee Brewers 3–1 in the bottom of the eighth during the NL Wild Card Game, Soto hit a bases-clearing single off of Brewers closer Josh Hader to give the Nationals a 4-3 lead. They would later hang on to the lead and advance to the National League Division Series.
On October 9, 2019, in the decisive Game 5 of the NLDS, Soto hit a game-tying home run in the top of the 8th off Clayton Kershaw. The Nationals eventually won the game (7–3) and series against the Dodgers. On October 23, 2019, playing in Game 1 of his first World Series, Soto hit a home run off of Astros' ace Gerrit Cole to start the fourth inning and became the fourth youngest player in MLB history to ever hit a home run in a World Series. On October 25, 2019, Soto played in a World Series on his birthday, an event his father predicted about 10 years earlier. It was Soto's 21st birthday and Game 3 of the World Series.
The Nationals eventually won the World Series, their first in franchise history, and Soto batted .277/.373/.554 with 5 home runs and 14 RBIs in the postseason (.333/.438/.741 with 3 HR, 7 RBIs in the World Series). For the series, he led the Nationals in home runs, hits, walks and runs scored. Soto was later named the co-winner (with Stephen Strasburg) of the 2019 Babe Ruth Award. He also made the All-MLB Second Team for the season in an annual honor rolled out in 2019.
2020 season: Batting champion
On July 23, 2020, just before the opening game of a shortened 2020 season, it was announced that Soto had tested positive for COVID-19. Soto returned to action on August 4 after multiple negative tests; he told The Washington Post that he had been following team rules for social distancing before the positive test, never experienced COVID-19 symptoms, received negative results on three rapid-result tests the day he learned of the positive test result through the official MLB testing program, and believed the result that caused him to miss time was a false positive.
In a series at Citi Field against the division-rival New York Mets, Soto first hit a home run 463 feet (141 m) on August 10, the longest of his career, then another home run measured at 466 feet (142 m) on August 12 to set a new personal best. He was named National League Player of the Week on August 17, his first such honor.
Despite losing the first week of play to the positive COVID-19 test and missing some time in September with an elbow injury, Soto qualified for the batting title and became the youngest player in National League history to win, hitting .351 during the regular season. Soto also led all qualified hitters in MLB in on-base percentage (.490), slugging percentage (.695), and on-base plus slugging (1.185), posting the highest marks in those three categories for any major league hitter with at least 195 plate appearances in a season since Barry Bonds in the 2004 season. In spite of Soto's achievement, the Nationals were unable to capitalize, missing the playoffs even with an expanded format.
During his 2018 rookie season, Soto became known for his movements and adjustments in the batter's box between pitches. Dubbed the "Soto Shuffle," the routine includes Soto swinging his hips, wiping the dirt with a wide arc of his leg, pulling at his crotch, and lowering himself into a squat and staring down the pitcher. As an ESPN writer describes it: "He'll swing his hips or spread his legs or sweep his feet or shimmy his shoulders or lick his lips or squeeze his, um, junk, sometimes all at once". Soto says he started the routine in the minor leagues "to get in the minds of the pitchers, because sometimes they get scared". In Game 1 of the 2019 National League Championship Series, St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Miles Mikolas responded to Soto's antics by grabbing his own crotch after retiring Soto on a ground out. Soto responded later by saying, "He got me out, he can do whatever he wants."
Soto employs a "two-strike approach" in which he raises his grip along the bat handle and adopts a wider, lower stance, sometimes described as a crouch, in the batter's box. He is noted for his ability to drive the ball to all fields, even on a two-strike count. At the conclusion of his 2020 season, Soto had hit 69 career home runs in MLB and divided them evenly by direction: 23 to left field, 23 to center field, and 23 to right field.
Although he was a finalist for a Gold Glove Award as a left fielder after the 2019 season, Soto has indicated a preference for playing right field, his main position during his brief minor league career. The Nationals began deploying him as their starting right fielder late in the 2020 season.
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- @StatsCentre (August 19, 2019). "4-for-4 with a pair of doubles for the @Nationals vs the Pirates tonight, Juan Soto joins Mel Ott (141), Tony Conigliaro (105) & Bryce Harper (104) as the only players in MLB history to record 100+ career extra base hits before their 21st birthday" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
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- Camerato, Jessica (September 23, 2020). "Soto getting reps in RF; Kieboom to IL". MLB.com. Retrieved September 27, 2020.
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- "2018日米野球 MLBオールスターチーム コーチ・出場予定選手発表". 野球日本代表 侍ジャパン オフィシャルサイト (in Japanese). October 29, 2018. Retrieved December 5, 2018.
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|Awards and achievements|
| Youngest Player in the National League
Fernando Tatís Jr.