Juan Soto Is Already Making History

Juan Soto is 19 years old and has hit 19 home runs this season. Of those 19 dingers, 14 happened before Soto reached the majors, but two of the MLB homers were hit last night. Through 76 plate appearances, Soto is putting up a Mike Trout-like .344/.447/.641 slash line good for a 192 wRC+ and an intriguing nickname. Hitting so well for a month is great, but it isn’t out of this world. So far this season, there have been 12 players who have put up a monthly split worth a 190 wRC+ or higher. That list includes names like Trout, Mookie Betts, Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor, and Manny Machado, but it also includes names like Daniel Robertson, Christian Villanueva, Brandon Crawford, and Scooter Gennett. What that hot start has done is changed Soto’s outlook both for this season and his career.

Soto has already drastically changed his projections for the year. Here are the top 30 hitters in baseball going forward according to our Depth Chart projections.

Top Projected Hitters Going Forward
Name PA HR AVG OBP SLG wOBA WAR
Mike Trout 374 23 .301 .432 .613 .429 5.1
Giancarlo Stanton 381 31 .269 .358 .606 .395 3.1
Freddie Freeman 382 18 .300 .402 .546 .394 2.9
Bryce Harper 365 21 .279 .402 .547 .393 2.9
Joey Votto 382 14 .296 .427 .497 .393 2.5
J.D. Martinez 370 25 .291 .360 .587 .391 2.3
Mookie Betts 370 16 .303 .375 .538 .383 3.7
Nolan Arenado 378 21 .292 .363 .561 .382 2.7
Kris Bryant 390 17 .276 .385 .511 .379 3.2
Paul Goldschmidt 386 17 .277 .389 .511 .378 2.2
Aaron Judge 390 25 .253 .370 .531 .378 2.8
Anthony Rizzo 386 19 .271 .381 .511 .376 2.3
Josh Donaldson 357 18 .262 .369 .506 .370 2.7
Charlie Blackmon 369 16 .296 .363 .513 .369 1.5
Juan Soto 259 11 .295 .369 .504 .369 1.3
Jose Ramirez 377 15 .294 .362 .512 .368 3.3
Carlos Correa 374 16 .281 .366 .496 .364 3.2
George Springer 362 17 .272 .362 .492 .364 2.5
Manny Machado 378 20 .285 .348 .524 .363 3.0
Christian Yelich 370 12 .291 .372 .474 .361 1.9
Jose Altuve 374 10 .313 .370 .475 .360 2.7
Brandon Belt 329 12 .265 .370 .473 .359 1.9
Francisco Lindor 386 15 .289 .355 .491 .358 3.4
Nelson Cruz 361 21 .263 .344 .506 .357 1.4
Rhys Hoskins 356 18 .251 .352 .487 .356 1.5
Andrew Benintendi 362 11 .284 .364 .476 .356 2.0
Jose Abreu 377 17 .286 .344 .506 .356 1.4
Edwin Encarnacion 373 21 .249 .349 .493 .356 1.2
Justin Turner 357 12 .284 .365 .466 .355 2.4
Eric Thames 255 14 .246 .345 .503 .355 0.9

The projections say that at 19 years old, Juan Soto is one of the top 15 hitters in the game. The list above is an impressive one. Look at some of the names after Soto: Jose Ramirez, Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve. These are the very best hitters in baseball, and Soto looks to be their peer. Soto rose so quickly in part because of how little time he spent in the minors. As Eric Longenhagen wrote when Soto was called up, in recent history, only Alex Rodriguez had less experience in the minors than Soto. An injury last season kept his game log to a minimum, and that meant he was a bit underrated as a prospect entering the season. He was ranked No. 45 here at FanGraphs, and no major service put him among the top-20 prospects in baseball.

The recent update to the top prospects list here put Soto at No. 9, but he seems unlikely to make the list next season as he exhausts his rookie eligibility in the coming months. It’s difficult to understate how rare Soto’s performance is thus far, as his presence alone in the majors makes him a historical oddity. When Ronald Acuña was called up at just 20 years old earlier this season, Jay Jaffe conducted an analysis on debuts and the Hall of Fame. He found that of the 238 retired players to take a single plate appearance in the majors at 19 years old, 25 made the Hall of Fame, a roughly one-in-ten shot. Jaffe went a bit further and found that only 59 players in history took 100 plate appearances at Soto’s age, and of the 54 retired players, 13 went on to become Hall of Famers.

To try and put Soto’s season in context, I went back to 1905 and looked for players with at least 50 plate appearances at 19 years old or below. Soto already appears on the first page of the WAR leaderboards.

Best Seasons at Age 19 or Younger
Season Name Team Age PA HR AVG OBP SLG wRC+ WAR
2012 Bryce Harper Nationals 19 597 22 .270 .340 .477 121 4.4
1928 Mel Ott Giants 19 499 18 .322 .397 .524 140 4.1
1996 Edgar Renteria Marlins 19 471 5 .309 .358 .399 106 3.5
1906 Ty Cobb Tigers 19 394 1 .316 .355 .394 130 2.7
1989 Ken Griffey Jr. Mariners 19 506 16 .264 .329 .420 106 2.5
1923 Travis Jackson Giants 19 351 4 .275 .321 .391 88 2.3
1936 Buddy Lewis Senators 19 657 6 .291 .347 .399 87 1.9
1964 Tony Conigliaro Red Sox 19 444 24 .290 .354 .530 138 1.9
1951 Mickey Mantle Yankees 19 386 13 .267 .349 .443 116 1.5
1954 Al Kaline Tigers 19 535 4 .276 .305 .347 76 1.4
2012 Manny Machado Orioles 19 202 7 .262 .294 .445 97 1.2
1970 Cesar Cedeno Astros 19 377 7 .310 .340 .451 111 1.2
1935 Phil Cavarretta Cubs 18 636 8 .275 .322 .404 94 1.2
1945 Whitey Lockman Giants 18 148 3 .341 .410 .481 144 1.1
2018 Juan Soto Nationals 19 76 5 .344 .447 .641 192 1.0
1910 Stuffy McInnis Athletics 19 81 0 .301 .363 .438 149 0.9
1927 Jimmie Foxx Athletics 19 146 3 .323 .393 .515 129 0.8
1964 Ed Kranepool Mets 19 461 10 .257 .310 .393 98 0.8
1974 Robin Yount Brewers 18 364 3 .250 .276 .346 77 0.8
1991 Ivan Rodriguez Rangers 19 288 3 .264 .276 .354 73 0.7
2011 Mike Trout Angels 19 135 5 .220 .281 .390 87 0.7
1974 Claudell Washington Athletics 19 237 0 .285 .326 .376 107 0.7
1915 Pete Schneider Reds 19 100 2 .245 .245 .372 80 0.6
1952 Harry Chiti Cubs 19 118 5 .274 .305 .451 102 0.6
1958 Johnny Callison White Sox 19 71 1 .297 .352 .469 125 0.6
Position Players with at least 50 PA

Of the 12 retired players above Soto, six are Hall of Famers. Three of the five players directly behind him are Hall of Famers, and the sixth player is Mike Trout. Also of interest, seven players have put up six-win seasons at age 20, and the only one not in the list above is Ted Williams. That list features nine of the best 13 age-20 seasons in history. Soto only has 76 plate appearances so far, but he’s also not done yet. For fun, let’s add two potential Sotos to the list above. One hypothetical Soto is completely unrealistic, but it shows what he would do with another 300 or so plate appearances if he kept up his torrid pace. The other version is more realistic, showing Soto’s rest-of-season projections combined with what he’s done so far.

Best Seasons at Age 19 or Younger
Season Name Team Age PA HR AVG OBP SLG wRC+ WAR
2018 Juan Soto PACE Nationals 19 380 25 .344 .447 .641 192 5.0
2012 Bryce Harper Nationals 19 597 22 .270 .340 .477 121 4.4
1928 Mel Ott Giants 19 499 18 .322 .397 .524 140 4.1
1996 Edgar Renteria Marlins 19 471 5 .309 .358 .399 106 3.5
1906 Ty Cobb Tigers 19 394 1 .316 .355 .394 130 2.7
1989 Ken Griffey Jr. Mariners 19 506 16 .264 .329 .420 106 2.5
2018 Juan Soto PROJ Nationals 19 335 16 .305 .386 .541 140 2.3
1923 Travis Jackson Giants 19 351 4 .275 .321 .391 88 2.3
1936 Buddy Lewis Senators 19 657 6 .291 .347 .399 87 1.9
1964 Tony Conigliaro Red Sox 19 444 24 .290 .354 .530 138 1.9
1951 Mickey Mantle Yankees 19 386 13 .267 .349 .443 116 1.5
1954 Al Kaline Tigers 19 535 4 .276 .305 .347 76 1.4
2012 Manny Machado Orioles 19 202 7 .262 .294 .445 97 1.2
1970 Cesar Cedeno Astros 19 377 7 .310 .340 .451 111 1.2
1935 Phil Cavarretta Cubs 18 636 8 .275 .322 .404 94 1.2
1945 Whitey Lockman Giants 18 148 3 .341 .410 .481 144 1.1
2018 Juan Soto NOW Nationals 19 76 5 .344 .447 .641 192 1.0
1910 Stuffy McInnis Athletics 19 81 0 .301 .363 .438 149 0.9
1927 Jimmie Foxx Athletics 19 146 3 .323 .393 .515 129 0.8
1964 Ed Kranepool Mets 19 461 10 .257 .310 .393 98 0.8
1974 Robin Yount Brewers 18 364 3 .250 .276 .346 77 0.8
1991 Ivan Rodriguez Rangers 19 288 3 .264 .276 .354 73 0.7
2011 Mike Trout Angels 19 135 5 .220 .281 .390 87 0.7
1974 Claudell Washington Athletics 19 237 0 .285 .326 .376 107 0.7
1915 Pete Schneider Reds 19 100 2 .245 .245 .372 80 0.6
1952 Harry Chiti Cubs 19 118 5 .274 .305 .451 102 0.6
1958 Johnny Callison White Sox 19 71 1 .297 .352 .469 125 0.6
Position Players with at least 50 PA

Juan Soto is currently projected to have the sixth-best season by a 19-year-old since 1905 (and yes, I cherry-picked the year to get Ty Cobb in there). Of the six players to hit two wins in a season at Soto’s age, four are already in the Hall of Fame, a fifth is his teammate Bryce Harper, and the sixth, Edgar Renteria, put up 35 WAR in an underrated career. Refining the list a bit, here are the seasons of at least 300 plate appearances and a wRC+ of 100, a list Soto will crack after a couple-hundred plate appearances and a wRC+ above 70 the rest of the way.

Best Seasons at Age 19 or Younger
Season Name Team PA HR AVG OBP SLG wRC+
2018 Juan Soto PROJ Nationals 335 16 .305 .386 .541 140
1928 Mel Ott Giants 499 18 .322 .397 .524 140
1964 Tony Conigliaro Red Sox 444 24 .290 .354 .530 138
1906 Ty Cobb Tigers 394 1 .316 .355 .394 130
2012 Bryce Harper Nationals 597 22 .270 .340 .477 121
1951 Mickey Mantle Yankees 386 13 .267 .349 .443 116
1970 Cesar Cedeno Astros 377 7 .310 .340 .451 111
1996 Edgar Renteria Marlins 471 5 .309 .358 .399 106
1989 Ken Griffey Jr. Mariners 506 16 .264 .329 .420 106
Position Players with at least 300 PA and 100 wRC+

Juan Soto’s season is special just because he made it to the major leagues. His season is spectacular due to his performance so far, and if history is any indication, he’s about to have a monstrous career.3

We hoped you liked reading Juan Soto Is Already Making History by Craig Edwards!

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Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.

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sadtrombone
Member
sadtrombone

Jay should have saved his will-Acuna-make-the-Hall-of-Fame piece for Soto. Soto is the truth.

I know why we weren’t all over him last year…he was hurt, so people dismissed his destruction of A-ball as an 18-year old as a fluke. And he was far away from the majors. And he plays left field. But realistically, this guy’s production in the minors has been comparable to Eloy Jimenez’s, and only a step behind Vlad Jr. at similar ages. The guy is incredible.

DRL1965
Member
DRL1965

if B/KK ratios matter to you (they mean a ton to me for prospects), Eloy isn’t even in the conversation. A 6% walk rate and close to 20% K rate as a near 22 year old isn’t that special.

kjhanson_chi
Member
kjhanson_chi

If the truth matters to you (it means a ton to me), it’s worth pointing out:
1) Eloy will play this entire season as a 21 year-old and is 6 months from his 22nd birthday
2) His walk rate is 7.7%
3) His K rate is 16.7%

Soto’s ratios are certainly superior, but why the blatant mis-leading information for Eloy? He’s likely to be an outstanding star in his own right.