Here’s a fun question: What’s next for Juan Soto?
When you’re 19 years old and the baseline is a .923 OPS and 142 OPS-plus, encores can be tricky. And, Soto didn’t stop his eye-popping first-year journey when the season ended. He went to Japan as part of an MLB “All-Star” team. There, he hit dome roofs twice with fly balls. One was called a double. Another, which he hit on the sweet spot, was called an out. Soto posited it may be the loudest out of his career.
“I heard the people do like, ‘Ohhhh,’” Soto told NBC Sports Washington about the reaction when he hit it.
Soto joined The Racing Presidents podcast to discuss that Japan trip, his first season, improving his outfield work, being recognized, the favor Bryce Harper did for him and more. The discussion with Soto is part of our extensive series of 1-on-1 sitdowns with Nationals players during spring training.
After each spring training team workout, Soto added more personal work. He does agility drills and sprints on the field just outside the Nationals’ clubhouse. He wants to work on straight line speed as well as a change of direction.
“Sometimes you run to the ball and the ball takes [a hop] another way so you have to make a quick move,” Soto said.
If Soto has one clear place for development in his age-20 season, it’s in left field. He rarely played the position before coming to the major leagues last year. The Nationals sent him into left to get his bat in the lineup. He learned the position on the fly via early work at every new field. Irreplaceable in-game experience backed those lessons.
“I feel better than when they called me up,” Soto said of his outfield work.
The outfield has recently become a cause for consternation in West Palm Beach, where the Nationals are in the final two weeks of spring training. Manager Davey Martinez told reporters Friday that center fielder Michael A. Taylor will have an MRI on his left knee and hip after a painful dive forced him out of Thursday’s game.
Washington’s outfield depth is limited. Slugger and first baseman Matt Adams played left field in Friday’s game. Howie Kendrick is still recovering from a hamstring strain. Neither is a good defensive option in the outfield. They also don’t qualify as a fourth outfielder who can play multiple positions, the way Taylor does.
The Racing President crew gets into those complications, Soto and Ronald Acuna Jr., plus thoughts on a rule change for 2019 which creates a single trade deadline July 31.
Listen, subscribe, rate, and stay tuned for more 1-on-1 conversations with players -- including Ryan Zimmerman, Sean Doolittle and Trea Turner -- to come next week.
MORE NATIONALS NEWS: