With the 2018 MLB season winding down, speculations for who will win league awards are already starting to surface. Some new faces are returning to the conversation like Max Scherzer in the NL Cy Young race and Mike Trout in the AL MVP conversation. While these awards garner clicks and attention, they often don’t mean that much in baseball as opposed to other sports. However, there is one end-of-season accolade that fans and GMs alike should pay attention to: the Rookie of the Year. This year, Juan Soto of the Washington Nationals has a serious case to take home that special plaque for the NL.
The Rookie of the Year race is a look into the future. Since 2010, the NL ROTY winners have become baseball royalty since their inaugural seasons. They are game changers, all-stars, and franchise players. Posey, Kimbrel, Harper and Bryant are just some of the names to have received this award. If a player can hit the ground running when they get to the bigs, who knows the kind of potential they have. This is where Soto comes in.
For a struggling Nats team that has not been meeting their desired level of play this season, Soto has been pleasant surprise. He’s only 19 years old and could catch up to his teammate Bryce Harper’s ROTY season by the time it’s all over. Soto is chugging into the middle part of August hitting .290 with 15 home runs and 44 RBIs. Add on a .522 slugging and a .935 OPS and you have a teenager with some real upside. If everything works out for him, Soto would become just the fourth player in the Expos/Nationals franchise to win the award.
His stats are good for a rookie, but stats don’t cover the whole story of Soto. The ROTY is a special player, one that not only affects the team on the field, but also plays a part in the club house and a team’s city. It’s about what the player has done for the franchise.
Soto could not have come at a better time for the Nationals. This season, long time veteran Jayson Werth decided to retire from baseball. Werth had been with the Nats since 2011 when he signed a massive seven-year contract worth $126 million. At the time the deal was met with a lot of scrutiny and backlash, but all of that would change. Werth would become one of Washington’s most beloved players. He delivered some of the biggest moments in Nationals history and was a mentor to the Bryce Harper when he entered the league. His absence was a bitter moment for Nats fans, but Soto has made the healing process a little easier.
Here’s a kid who is ready and excited to play. He took over one of the faces of the Washington franchise’s position and helped fill the void left by Werth. He’ll be around DC for a while, and has helped ease some of the anxiety and uncertainty that surrounds Bryce Harper and the future of the Nationals as the season comes to a close. He’s remained healthy amongst a sea of injuries for the ball club. If Juan Soto’s stats don’t speak to why he should be the National League’s Rookie of the Year, then the things that he’s already done for Washington D.C. should.