Precocious Juan Soto Rockets To Double-A
At age 19, right fielder Juan Soto looked plenty powerful as he climbed quickly from low Class A Hagerstown on Opening Day to Double-A Harrisburg by mid-May.
"When he’s 22, and then after that, imagine what kind of power he’s going to have,” Potomac hitting coach Luis Ordaz said. "He has the ability to use the whole field and hit for power. To me, he’s a big man, but he’s still a baby. He’ll get even stronger.”
A 6-foot-1 lefthanded batter, Soto hit .373/.477/.817 through 32 games and led the minors in home runs (13), RBIs (46) and slugging. His prospect breakout might have occurred last year, but an ankle injury at Hagerstown cut his season to 32 games and forced him to get his work in at the Nationals’ rehab facility in Florida.
"It was hard because it was my first time getting hurt,” Soto said. "I wasn’t ready for that. But I just tried to be patient and keep working.”
After being limited to 111 at-bats last year, Soto was more than ready for his return to South Atlantic League. He hit .373 with five home runs in 16 games before advancing to high Class A Potomac, where he spent just 15 games before advancing to Harrisburg.
Soto joined fellow 19-year-old elite prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. in the Eastern League and even faced Guerrero's New Hampshire club in his Double-A debut. Soto went 2-for-5 with a homer and double.
Soto, who signed for $1.5 million out of the Dominican Republic in 2015, has kept up with his rapid promotion schedule. Part of that is because his father, also named Juan Jose Soto, taught him the importance of plate discipline at a young age.
"The pitchers, sometimes they don’t throw their fastballs straight," said Soto, who had collected 26 walks against 21 strikeouts. "They throw sinkers, cutters and different pitches to try to get me out.”
Meanwhile, Soto is still trying to get stronger. His arm, speed and range all grade out as about average, but his bat could be special.
"He’s got a gift at knowing the strike zone real well,” Ordaz said. "The way he stays behind the ball at that young age has really impressed me a lot. He just needs to continue what he’s doing. He’s going to compete, and the other thing that really impressed me a lot is his two-strike approach.”
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