by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
It’s been a meteoric rise for Juan Soto, though one that shouldn’t have come as a complete surprise. He entered the year as a prospect with the potential to shoot up prospect rankings, but did anyone see this coming? Not only has he emerged as one of the elite prospects in the game, hitting .362 with 14 HR, 52 RBI, 33 R and 3 SB across three levels of the minor leagues, he’s now set to arrive in the Majors today thanks to a slew of injuries to the Washington outfield. Currently sidelined include:
- Adam Eaton
- Brian Goodwin
- Victor Robles (who likely would be getting this opportunity had he been healthy)
- Rafael Bautista
- Howie Kendrick (who we learned was lost for the season yesterday)
Prior to the season we gave Soto an “A-“ grade, landing him as the #19 prospect, which you can view by clicking here, in all of baseball (one of 28 prospects who received an A- grade or better and we had him ahead of big names like Bo Bichette, Michael Kopech and Francisco Mejia). At that time we said:
There was a lot of hype surrounding Soto entering 2017, but he missed significant time due to an ankle injury (he played just 23-games at Single-A). It’s a speed bump in his development, though he didn’t turn 19 until after the season ended and has plenty of time to continue to grow and mature. The fact that he posted an impressive 7.4% SwStr%, at 18-years old, speaks volume to his approach and ability to handle the bat. Just to hammer that point home, he actually walked (10) more than he struck out (8).
The other skills haven’t shown up yet (3 HR, 1 SB), though they are coming and could begin to present themselves as soon as ’18. There are obviously questions, but the development could come quickly.
Clearly it all came together quickly. Reaching Double-A Soto continued to show an elite approach at the plate, with a 14.6% strikeout rate, 16.3% walk rate and highly impressive 7.2% SwStr% over 178 total PA. In his eight games at Double-A he had 7 K vs. 4 BB and his SwStr% did “balloon” to 10.5%, so that is going to be something to keep a very close eye on. He’s dominated the lower levels, but he’s only had 31 PA against upper-level pitching. Will they be able to expose him, given his relative lack of experience?
It’s something we’ve seen with Ronald Acuna, who is a year older and had 321 PA of Triple-A experience before arriving in the Majors. Acuna made a splash immediately, but in 68 AB in May he’s hitting just .206 with 22 K vs. 6 BB. Over this month he’s posted an 11.8% SwStr%, so consider this a cautionary tale.
Does it mean that Soto isn’t going to thrive immediately and help to carry your team? Absolutely not, and he brings enough to the table to add him in every single format possible. That said, keep these things in mind:
- He has seen more swings and misses upon reaching Double-A, and it will likely further rise
- He also posted a 0.00% line drive rate during his time at Double-A (albeit in a small sample size)
- Ronald Acuna, who is still widely viewed as the better prospect (with far more experience), is currently struggling to adjust after impressing initially
- His minor league numbers have benefited from an unrealistic 32.6% HR/FB and .358 BABIP
Grab Soto, if you haven’t missed out already. That said don’t assume that he’s going to be a can’t miss this first time around and he could ultimately need to spend more time in the minors until he’s truly ready to deliver on the hype.
Sources – MILB.com, Fangraphs
Missed our Top 100 prospect rankings? Make sure to check it out by clicking here. Also don’t miss all of our 2018 Preseason Positional Prospect Lists: