It can take years for players to accumulate enough noteworthy home runs to warrant a “most memorable” list. For Juan Soto, it took just two.
Thursday marks the anniversary of Soto’s first official Major League home run. He has recorded 56 homers in the regular season and an impressive five in his first playoff run last year. At 21 years old, Soto has already established himself as a dangerous hitter, and he is well on his way to adding to this list. Here’s a look at some of Soto’s standout dingers so far:
Welcome to the big leagues
May 21, 2018 vs. Robbie Erlin (Padres)
A 19-year-old Soto made his official Major League debut on May 20, 2018 (more on his first appearance below), but set the tone for his career with his inaugural hit a day later -- a three-run home run. The 422-foot shot to left-center field off a 90.4 mph fastball from Erlin left Nationals Park at 106.8 mph. What a way to make an entrance.
"I was really nervous," Soto said. "I was just saying, 'Oh my God.' I was just trying to breathe and do my job."
Twice as nice
June 13, 2018 vs. Sonny Gray, Chasen Shreve (Yankees)
With a pair of home runs against the Yankees on June 13, 2018, the teenage Soto became the fifth-youngest player in Major League history to hit at least two in a single game. He first struck in the fourth inning with a three-run, 338-foot shot to left field at 103.1 mph off Gray’s 95.5 mph fastball. With the game tied in the seventh, Soto hit a 436-foot, go-ahead solo home run to give the Nationals a 5-4 lead they wouldn't relinquish. His shot to right-center off Shreve's 91.6 mph fastball left Yankee Stadium at 111.2 mph. At 19 years and 231 days old, Soto became the youngest player to homer at that ballpark during the regular season since Ken Griffey Jr. in 1989.
"For him to go out there and do what he did today, in front of this crowd, it tells you a little bit about the character that he brings," said manager Dave Martinez.
Welcome to the big leagues -- again?
June 18, 2018 vs. Chad Green (Yankees)
Soto managed to time travel on June 18, 2018, when he hit a home run that technically counts as having happened one month earlier. The Nationals’ matchup against the Yankees on May 15, at which point Soto hadn’t yet been called up, was suspended because of weather. By the time the action resumed, he was on the Nats’ roster, knocking a 96.8 mph fastball off Green at 111.8 mph and driving in Anthony Rendon to break a 3-3 tie in the sixth inning. Though the hit distance was not recorded, it flew into the right-field concourse, which speaks for itself.
New season, same Soto
April 9, 2019 vs. José Álvarez (Phillies)
Déjà vu? Just months after hitting a 10th-inning, go-ahead home run to break a 6-6 tie in Philadelphia the previous season, Soto did it again on April 9, 2019. This time, Soto’s three-run blast soared 432 feet around the right-field foul pole at 112.7 mph off Álvarez’s 81.2 mph slider to help the Nats to a 10-6 victory. Martinez described Soto’s second homer of the year as “the hardest ball I’ve ever seen hit."
The day that changed everything
May 24, 2019 vs. Tayron Guerrero (Marlins)
On the evening the Nationals began their turnaround from a 19-31 start, Soto played his part. Trailing Miami, 9-8, in the eighth inning with runners on first and second, Soto lifted a 100.1 mph fastball from Guerrero 399 feet into left-center at 103 mph. The game-winning home run helped put the Nats on the comeback trail that led them to their first World Series title. It was the fastest pitch hit by a member of the Nationals for a home run in the pitch-tracking era (since 2008), yet somehow teammate Matt Adams actually topped it in the next at-bat with a homer off a 101.5 mph pitch.
Going, going, going … still going … gone
Oct. 9, 2019 vs. Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers)
Leave it to Soto to hit the longest home run of his career against a three-time National League Cy Young Award winner in the deciding game of the NL Division Series. The Nats entered the eighth inning trailing the Dodgers, 3-1, when Rendon belted a solo home run off Kershaw. Soto, up next at the plate, then walloped an 89.3 mph slider a staggering 449 feet at 110 mph. That game-tying shot set the Nationals up to win, 7-3, and continue their World Series journey.
“[Rendon] hit the homer, and I said, ‘Now it's in my hands, let's go,’” Soto said.
When it mattered most
Oct. 29, 2019 vs. Justin Verlander (Astros)
Soto clubbed a trio of home runs in the World Series, and this one in Game 6 had the biggest exclamation mark. Down, 3-2, to the Astros in the Series and with the score tied at 2 in the fifth, Soto rocked a two-out, go-ahead solo shot off Justin Verlander. He sent the two-time American League Cy Young Award winner’s 95.9 mph fastball 413 feet into right field at Minute Maid Park. Its 111.4 mph exit velocity set a mark for the Nats’ hardest-hit postseason home run in the Statcast tracking era (since 2015). Four days after his 21st birthday, Soto became the youngest player in Major League history to hit a trio of homers in the Fall Classic. The Nationals would win that Game 6, and Game 7 is history.