Juan Soto in Elite Company After Home Run in First World Series Game
Juan Soto spent his 21st birthday doing what every kid dreams about — batting cleanup in game three of the World Series. His 21st didn’t treat him as well as he had hoped, however. Soto went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in the game three loss, the real story though is what the outfielder has done before his birthday.
At 21 years old, Soto has already taken the league by storm and solidified himself in the middle of a Washington Nationals order that has stampeded their way through the National League. Not only has Soto appeared in a World Series at the age of 20, but he is the second-youngest player to homer in their first World Series game, and the fourth-youngest player to ever take a round-trip in the Series.
Soto’s opposite-field blast in game one of the World Series made a mark in the history books along with Houston’s train tracks. Andruw Jones sits as the only player in Major League history that was younger than Soto when he hit a home run in his first World Series game in 1996. Soto also sits just behind Miguel Cabrera and Mickey Mantle as the fourth-youngest player to ever homer in the World Series. If this list is any indication where Soto’s career will end up, then this is only a drop in the bucket for the Dominican native. It’s hard to argue that any of these three had a better start to their career than Soto has.
Since debuting in the Majors in 2018 at 19 years old, Soto has slashed .287/.403/.535 leaving him with a .937 OPS. His .949 OPS in 2019 was higher than three of the last four National League MVPs — Giancarlo Stanton, Kris Bryant, and Bryce Harper — had this season. He has also his a cool 57 doubles, 56 home runs, and 180 RBI in his time on the Nationals.
In his first trip to the postseason, Soto already has a go-ahead hit in the eighth inning of the Wild Card game and has collected 13 hits, three home runs, 10 RBI, seven walks, with a .879 OPS — all of this coming before his 21st birthday. His .265 postseason average before turning 21 is similar to Jones, Cabrera, and Mantle.
In Jones’ age 19 and 20 seasons, he only hit .228/.317/.422 with 25 doubles, 23 homers, and 83 RBI. In the postseason, however, Jones reached the World Series in 1996, and the NCLS in 1997, over those two seasons he saw very similar numbers as Soto. Jones hit .266 with 14 hits, three home runs, 11 RBI, and nine walks.
Cabrera entered the league at the age of 20 in 2003. in his age 20 season, the Marlin hit .268/.325/.468 with just 12 home runs and 62 RBI. The Florida Marlins won the World Series in Cabrera’s rookie season, where he contributed a .262 average throughout that playoff run. The rookie also had 18 hits, four home runs, and 12 RBI.
Mantle’s age 19 and 20 seasons are a little more on par with Soto but still wasn’t at his level of production yet. in the 1951 and 1952 seasons Mantle slashed .294/.377/.497 with 48 doubles, 36 home runs, and 152 RBI. Mantle contributed to two World Series titles in his first two seasons. Throughout those playoffs, he hit .272 with 11 hits and just 2 home runs, and 3 RBI.
What makes Soto’s success to this point even more impressive is the fact that his numbers are so similar or even better than Jones and Mantle, and they both had two playoff runs before turning 21, as opposed to Soto’s one.
The Nationals have been a team of destiny all October long and are two wins away from one of the more improbable playoff runs in recent memory. Soto is the youngest player on one of the oldest rosters in baseball and has been the leading force of the offense this month. These playoffs, the left fielder is fourth in hits, third in doubles, and first in runs, home runs, RBI, and total bases.
If the Nationals are able to finish off the Houston Astros, Juan Soto looks like an early frontrunner for World Series MVP.