Juan Soto is the phenom we didn't see coming

Talented teenager's success more than just a hot streak

June 14th, 2018

Juan Soto wasn't even "The Guy" in his own camp this spring. That was . It was Robles, Soto's fellow Dominican with the blazing speed, who was the Nationals' top prospect and a candidate for the top in baseball. Robles, two years older and coming off a year in which he starred at Double-A and made his big league debut, was Washington's wild card.

But it's June now, and Soto is very much The Guy. After two more homers in Wednesday's win against the Yankees, Soto is taking his place as one of the most essential Nats of any age, at any position. And what's most remarkable is that this teenager -- he was born a week after the 1998 World Series ended -- is so polished. He's not just hitting for power. He's doing things that 25 year olds often haven't mastered, never mind 19 year olds who began the year in Class A ball.

He has yet to pull a home run in the big leagues -- four to the opposite field and one, the latest one, to straightaway center. He has only hit one home run off a right-handed pitcher. That sounds like a problem until you realize he's left-handed. Five big league homers, four of them against same-side pitching. , by comparison, hit six homers against same-side pitching in the entirety of his 119-game rookie season.

Soto is hitting singles and doubles, not just homers, and his .344/.447/.641 line entering Thursday looks straight out of Harper's 2015 MVP season (.330/.460/.649). Soto is handling left-handed pitching. And he's walked more times than he's struck out. All this from a player who still does not have 600 professional plate appearances. Not Major League plate appearances -- professional, at any level.

As Nationals reliever so succinctly put it after Wednesday's victory in New York: "He's the truth."

This ridiculously talented youngster, who split last year between the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and the low Class A South Atlantic League, is also ridiculously refined at the plate. He's helped an offense that has gone without a slew of key players stay afloat, and now some of those key players are coming back. and have recently returned to action, buoying hopes for the kind of ferocious attack the Nats envisioned back in the spring.

So marvel at the numbers. They're great fun. Soto is the fifth-youngest player in history to homer more than once in a game, the first since Andruw Jones and the first in the regular season since Ken Griffey Jr. He's the youngest player to homer even once at a ballpark called Yankee Stadium since Griffey.

But also understand that this is more than a freakish hot streak. There's a maturity to Soto's offensive approach that makes this feel different from many of the rookie sensations we've seen in recent years. He might do things like this for a long time.