PHILADELPHIA -- As Juan Soto has put together one of the best rookie seasons in MLB history, he has been compared to and mentioned among some of the best players in the history of the game. Soto's solo homer in Wednesday's 5-1 victory over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park was his 19th, matching his age and tying him with Hall of Famer Mel Ott for the third-most by a teenager in MLB history.
But Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg, who struck out nine over seven innings of one-run ball against Philadelphia, thought of a different name when considering Soto's impressive skillset, one that hits close to home for the San Diego native: Tony Gwynn.
"I think the one thing you recognize from being in the game for some time is the plate discipline," Strasburg said of Soto, who was unavailable for comment after the game. "His ability to spit on good pitches, that's the one thing that's really stood out to me. A guy throws a really good pitch and he doesn't flinch. He sees it early. It's reminiscent of watching Tony Gwynn growing up, really."
Strasburg would know, considering he grew up idolizing Gwynn and later played for him in college at San Diego State. So, there is perhaps no greater compliment Strasburg can give to any player, let alone his 19-year-old teammate.
"It's just that extra edge of as soon as the pitcher is releasing the ball, just seeing if it's a ball or strike immediately," Strasburg said. "Never really being off-balance, never really being fooled on a pitch. It's been impressive."
A day after he powered the Nationals to a victory with two homers in the second game of a doubleheader, Soto followed up his performance with a moonshot homer on Wednesday night against left-hander Austin Davis. With one out in the sixth inning, Soto turned on a 1-2 fastball that was well off the inside part of the plate and crushed it 401 feet, according to Statcast™, into the second deck in right field. Soto has now hit safely in 14 of his past 17 games with four homers and 16 RBIs during that span.
And there is still time for Soto to move up on the list before his 20th birthday, which is on Oct. 25. Soto now only trails teammate Bryce Harper (22) and Tony Conigliaro (24) for the most homers by a teenager.