WASHINGTON -- Every so often, near the end of his first season in the big leagues, Juan Soto would allow his mind to wander toward the National League Rookie of the Year Award. Usually, it was because when he would hear from some of his family in the Dominican Republic,
WASHINGTON -- Every so often, near the end of his first season in the big leagues, Juan Soto would allow his mind to wander toward the National League Rookie of the Year Award. Usually, it was because when he would hear from some of his family in the Dominican Republic, they would mention the honor and get his mind turning.
:: NL Rookie of the Year voting totals ::
Ultimately, Soto's bid for the NL Rookie of the Year Award fell short. Soto finished second in voting to the Braves' Ronald Acuna Jr. as the ballots were revealed Monday night on MLB Network. Soto received just two of the 30 first-place votes, while Acuna got 27. The Dodgers' Walker Buehler, who garnered the other top vote, finished third.
"I'm happy, not just for the votes, but the year I had," Soto said Friday from Hiroshima, Japan, where he's playing alongside Acuna in the MLB All-Stars' outfield. " Not a lot of players had a year like that. I'm happy to have come through the Minor Leagues and come so far so quickly, I played how I wanted, I played freely and I'm happy with the year I had."
Soto was aiming to become just the second Rookie of the Year in Nationals history (Bryce Harper, 2012) to cap off his sensational age-19 season.
Promoted to the Majors in May, way ahead of any realistic timeline the Nats had set for him before the season, Soto erupted on the scene as one of the best hitters in the NL. His .406 on-base percentage and .923 OPS ranked second and third, respectively, among NL hitters with at least 490 plate appearances. Not just rookies. Everyone.
Among NL rookies, Soto paced the field in OBP, OPS, RBIs (70) and walks (79), while finishing second (22) to Acuna (26) in homers. Soto became the first rookie since Jose Pujols in 2001 to compile a slash line of at least .290/.400/.500.
Where Acuna held the edge was in defense and speed.
Acuna posted four Outs Above Average, a Statcast™ metic that shows how many outs an outfielder has saved compared to his peers, while Soto compiled a -4 OAA. Atlanta also cruised to the postseason for the first time since 2013, while Washington sat out October for the first time since '15. In a race that was considered a toss-up between the two players, those factors may have given Acuna the edge, as he won the award handily.
Even though he will not have the hardware to show for it, the history books will show that Soto, who turned 20 in late October, put together perhaps the best season by a teenager in MLB history.
Soto mashed 22 home runs, passing Hall of Famers such as Mel Ott and Ken Griffey Jr., as he climbed the all-time list for most homers by a teenager. He finished tied with Harper for second most. Soto drew more walks and had a higher on-base percentage than any player in history before his 20th birthday. By several advanced metrics, he was the best teenage hitter ever, setting records for OPS, wRC+ (146) and wOBA (.392).
When the Nationals look back on the bright spots of this lost season, the emergence of Soto will be at the top of the list.
Jamal Collier has covered the Nationals for MLB.com since 2016. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.