When a player bursts onto the Major League Baseball scene with the type of rookie season Juan Soto had in 2018, there’s no guarantee his production continues to increase each year beyond that. There's certainly hope that wherever there's room for improvement gets addressed, but only the truly great players can dramatically improve their productivity over the stellar level of performance Soto has already demonstrated.
The Washington Nationals slugger just so happens to be one of those players who continues to get better, catapulting himself into the conversation of the league's elite in a matter of just three years, and oddsmakers apparently don’t expect the 22-year-old's production to plateau anytime soon. Soto, who finished fifth in NL MVP voting last season and enters 2021 as the betting favorite to win the award, is also the betting favorite at +800 to lead all the majors in RBI, per PointsBet Sportsbook, and he’s tied with the third-best odds to lead the league in both homeruns (+1200) and runs scored (+1000), respectively.
Simply put, whenever Soto peaks, oddsmakers expect it to be somewhere close to or better than the rate of his production in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, where he likely would’ve been higher in MVP voting had his season not been further shortened by a positive coronavirus test.
Soto averaged a career-best 11.85 at-bats per home run in 2020 which, if extrapolated over his career-high of 542 at-bats in a season (2019), would’ve given him about 45 home runs in a normal year. That would be a top-five total in every season since 2002 and a league-leading number several times in that span. And those 542 at-bats were through just 150 games, so the number would be higher in a full 162-game season.
His isolated power in 2020 helps to further explain why he’s amongst the run-producing favorites in 2021. Last season, Soto had a league-leading .344 ISO, which determines the raw power of a hitter by measuring his rate of extra bases per at-bat. So even when Soto, who won the NL batting title with a .351 average, wasn’t hitting the ball out the park, he was getting it past outfielders often. And with the speedy Trea Turner -- amongst betting favorites for the hits and stolen bases lead -- batting ahead of him, Soto should have plenty of opportunities to eclipse his career-high 110 RBI from 2019.
Only Pete Alonso and Mike Trout, at +1000 each, have better odds to hit more home runs than Soto, who is tied with Joey Gallo, Ronald Acuna Jr. and Cody Bellinger. Mookie Betts (+800) and Acua (+850) are first and second in runs, with Soto and Fernando Tatis Jr. tied at third. And behind Soto on the RBI odds list is Bellinger at +800, Trout and Marcell Ozuna at +1200 and four others tied at +1500.
Odds provided by our partner, PointsBet