The San Diego Padres have acquired superstar Juan Soto from the Washington Nationals. What does Soto add to the Padres lineup?
Every team with a hope and a prayer of making the post-season had at least a secret desire of landing Juan Soto, but the San Diego Padres were the team with the most to offer and the willingness to part with enough assets to win the biggest prize of the trade deadline.
What did the Padres get in return besides a 23-year-old superstar outfielder making $17,100,000 this year with arbitration years two and three to follow in 2023 and 2024 respectively?
On the field Soto has hit for average and power, slashing .291/.427/.538 over almost 2,000 major league at bats.
His skills at the plate are elite and his swing close to flawless. Soto sits at the 90th percentile or higher in these categories: Max Exit Velocity (90th percentile), xwOBA (98th), xSLG (96th), BB% (100th) and Chase Rate (99th).
In a so-called down season, Soto also ranks highly in barrel percentage (85th percentile) and average velocity (77th percentile) and HardHit percentage (82nd percentile).
This season Soto is slashing .246/.408/.485, but his expected numbers are much better at .269/.413/.525 and while that expected batting average is well below Soto’s career mark, it’s still in the 81st percentile of Major League Baseball in 2022.
Based on the outs above average metric (OAA), Soto has been an up and down fielder, going from -7 OAA in 2018, to +6 in 2019, -2 in 2020, +5 in 2021 and finally -9 this season.
On the flip side, Ultimate Zone Rating has Soto fourth among right fielders at 2.2.
Given these numbers one would think you’d consider Soto as a DH, but to this point in his career Soto has only been the DH in 8 of his 549 major league appearances.
Soto has shown the ability to play defense well at times and given his offensive prowess, this is easily a tradeoff the Padres are willing to take for a young player with two additional years past this one under club control.
San Diego Padres are betting on Juan Soto
Soto’s OPS+ for his career resides at an incredible 160, sixth all-time through age 23, per MLB Network (Modern ERA) and only two active players (Mike Trout and Albert Pujols) had a higher OPS+ during that time.
Even this season, his OPS+ is good enough for ninth in baseball, he’s ninth in offensive WAR and leads the MLB in walks by an astounding 31 over the next closest player.
He’s understandably struggled some in the midst of the debacle that is the post-Championship Nationals, but it was just last season that a 22-year-old Soto mashed to a slash of .313/.465/.534 with 29 home runs, 95 RBI and a league leading 145 walks.
The Padres are betting that’s the Soto we’ll see for the rest of 2022 and for the next two years and they were willing to pay dearly to make that bet.