Juan Soto Right Field Hagerstown Suns
DOB: 10/25/98 Height: 6-1 Weight: 185lbs Bats: Left Throws: Left
Future Grades: Hit (65) Power (60) Arm (45) Defense (45) Speed (50)
Juan Soto was signed as an international free agent by the Nationals for $1.5 million in July 2015. He is a 19-year-old left-handed hitting and throwing outfielder who is listed at 6-1 185lbs, with broad shoulders, plenty of muscle and looks closer to 205lbs. Soto possesses average to fringe-average speed, posting 4.21-4.24 second times home to first. He plays the game with confidence and a positive swagger, consistently smiling on the field and showing hustle between the lines.
Defensively is not where Soto makes his name as a prospect, as his average speed and athleticism, along with fringe-average arm, allows him to play a reasonable but unexceptional right field. As he matures and receives additional game experience, I could envision his arm getting to average, as well as his overall defense in right field. However, if he loses much speed or range as he ages, he could profile better long-term in left field, where he would project as average or slightly better.
At the plate Soto shows an exceptional ability to barrel the baseball and a preternatural feel for the strike zone. He has a compact swing from the left side, with lightning quick wrists and outstanding hand-eye coordination. He generates obvious bat speed and whips the barrel through the strike zone. In addition, Soto has a quality approach at the plate and noticeably hunts fastballs. He does not work the count as well as one might hope, but his confidence to identify and hit fastballs is evident.
The combination of bat speed and barrel skills allows the ball to jump off his bat and makes a “different sound off his bat”. Soto shows good raw power to center field and the pull side during batting practice, although the home runs have yet to come during game action. He needs game experience to help him gain confidence working counts, but he is one of the most impressive teenage hitters I have ever seen. Soto projects as a future “65” hit, “60” power hitter in the majors.
Soto is an intriguing prospect due to his ability to hit for both power and for average. He will not be a particularly strong defensive player or base stealer, so the majority of his value comes from his bat, yet he should be a passable outfielder throughout his career. The biggest concern in his profile is the distance from the majors and projecting someone to hit major league pitching while playing in Low-A. Furthermore, his future as a good but non-impact player defensively and on the bases limits his prospect floor. Soto profiles as an impact big league hitter at his peak, with a ceiling as a .285-.300 hitter with mid-20s home run power. I would be surprised if anything besides injury curtails his future as a productive major league hitter.