This is the best all-around hitter in baseball

August 25th, 2020

The beauty of and taking over the game of baseball is that two 21-year-old phenoms can both be so amazing as different types of superstars.

Tatis and Soto aren't just the best young stars in Major League Baseball. They're the best players. Luckily we get to watch both and don't have to choose between them.

Tatis is electrifying the league with his dynamic all-around talent. He's the deserving MVP frontrunner. But Soto? Soto is the best all-around hitter on the planet right now.

Let's just take some time to appreciate what Soto is doing.

His baseball card stats are insane

Soto is one of 199 Major League hitters with 75 or more plate appearances this season. Here's how he ranks among those hitters.

Batting average: .400 -- 3rd in MLB
On-base percentage: .487 -- 1st in MLB
Slugging percentage: .815 -- 1st in MLB
OPS: 1.302 -- 1st in MLB

wOBA: .530 -- 1st in MLB
wRC+: 236 -- 1st in MLB

Those last two stats, weighted on-base average and weighted runs created plus, are all-in-one numbers to measure offensive performance. wOBA is like on-base percentage, but it gives you more credit for hitting a home run than, say, a single. A .400 wOBA is superstar level; the .500 range Soto is in is super-superstar level. wRC+ compares you to a league average hitter, with a 100 wRC+ being average. Soto's 236 wRC+ means he's been nearly 2 1/2 times as good as an average Major League hitter. That's insane.

Soto leads the world in almost every key hitting category that's not a counting stat. Besides the Ted Williams-esque .400 batting average, Soto is slugging like peak Aaron Judge and getting on base like peak Mike Trout -- he has seven home runs and 13 extra-base hits in his 18 games, and he's reaching base nearly half the time while walking as often as he strikes out.

Elite average and power and on-base skills? One of MLB's most dangerous hitters and one of its toughest outs? What more could you want?

His Statcast stats are even more insane

How about top-of-the-scale quality of contact? The underlying data on what a hitter is doing doesn't always match up with the numbers in the box score. But with Soto, the Statcast stats are just as good. The stat sheet matches the hit tracking matches the eye test -- everything is in beautiful harmony.

Here's a look at the big Statcast hitting stats for Soto this season.

Soto's 2020 Statcast numbers and rankings
Avg. exit velocity: 95.6 mph -- 2nd in MLB (to Tatis)
Hard-hit rate: 61.8% -- 2nd in MLB (to Tatis)
Barrel rate: 20.0% -- 5th in MLB
Of hitters with 50+ batted balls in 2020

First are his exit velocity, hard-hit and barrel numbers. A hard-hit ball is anything with a 95-plus mph exit velocity; if you hit it that hard, good things will happen. A "barrel" requires both optimal exit velocity and optimal launch angle; if you hit the ball hard and drive it in the air, even better things will happen. Hard-hit balls get hits; barrels get extra-base hits and home runs.

Soto doesn't square the ball up so often because he's a big masher built like Judge, but because he's a great pure hitter who knows what pitches to attack. He only chases 16% of pitches out of the strike zone, just outside the top 10 in baseball behind Joey Votto. And if the pitch isn't borderline? Forget it. Soto has only swung at six of the 116 pitches he's seen that were more than one baseball's width off the edge of the strike zone -- that's 5.2%, behind only notoriously disciplined former teammate Anthony Rendon and Brandon Nimmo for third-best in MLB. Soto takes balls with authority.

Now let's put Soto's hard contact and elite discipline together. We can do that by looking at his hard-hit and barrel rates on a per-swing and per-plate appearance basis.

Hard-hit rate per swing: 28.3% -- 1st in MLB
Barrel rate per swing: 9.2% -- 2nd in MLB (to Mitch Moreland)
Hard-hit rate per PA: 44.7% -- 2nd in MLB (to Corey Seager)
Barrel rate per PA: 14.5% -- 2nd in MLB (to Seager)
Of hitters with 100+ swings / 75+ PA in 2020

Well over one in every four times Soto swings, the result is a hard-hit ball (not to mention that nearly one in every 10 of his swings produces a barrel, the best kind of contact). That puts him atop a very good leaderboard to be atop of.

Highest hard-hit rate per swing, 2020
Minimum 100 swings
1) Juan Soto (WSH): 28.3%
2) Jake Cronenworth (SD): 24.6%
3-T) Fernando Tatis Jr. (SD): 24.5%
3-T) Corey Seager (LAD): 24.5%
5) Robinson Canó (NYM): 23.9%

The hard-hit and barrel rate per swing leaderboards reflect Soto's biggest edge over Tatis as a hitter (Tatis has the edge over Soto in other ways, like his elite speed) -- Soto is more disciplined and doesn't waste as many swings, while still hitting the ball essentially as hard.

A lot of high-slug, high-swing-and-miss power hitters make dangerous contact when they connect, but they're all-or-nothing. On the other side, contact hitters put the ball in play a lot but don't do damage. Both types of hitter can be good, even great -- the Giancarlo Stantons and Joey Gallos and David Fletchers and Luis Arraezes of the world -- but Soto is the best of both worlds.

Soto makes great contact and he makes a lot of contact. He rakes all the time, and he rakes all over the place -- his spray charts are things of beauty, especially his power to left-center field.

There's one more trio of Statcast metrics to check out -- the ones that combine everything: expected batting average, expected slugging percentage and expected wOBA. Those take Soto's quality of contact and combine it with his walks and strikeouts to tell you what his numbers deserve to look like.

Soto's expected stats for 2020
xBA: .383 -- 2nd in MLB
xSLG: .857 -- 1st in MLB
xwOBA: .532 -- 1st in MLB
Of hitters with 75+ PA in 2020

Soto's expected stats somehow only confirm the absurd level of his actual stats. This is not a streaky hitter getting hot. This is a truly great hitter at full power.

Best hitters in MLB by expected wOBA, 2020
Minimum 75 PA
1) Juan Soto (WSH): .532
2) Jake Cronenworth (SD): .507
3) Corey Seager (LAD): .488
4) Bryce Harper (PHI): .467
5) Luke Voit (NYY): .462
MLB avg. xwOBA in 2020: .335

He's somehow getting better

The thing is, Soto has been doing great things ever since he played his first Major League game, from his accomplishments as a 19-year-old rookie to the way he demolished the best pitching in the world in the postseason at age 20 and led the Nationals to a World Series championship.

Now at the ripe age of 21, he just keeps getting better. From 2018, to '19, to '20, Soto has improved across the board in essentially every stat, from traditional to advanced to Statcast metrics.

This is beyond a normal young player's development. Soto is already at the pinnacle of his craft as a hitter. Whatever you want to call it -- superstar level, MVP level, "best hitter in the world" level -- Soto is there right now.