Juan Soto Is a Top-5 Player to Own in Dynasty Baseball Leagues
The Washington Nationals have a special player on their hands, and if you picked him up early off the waiver wire this year in redraft leagues, so do you.
Juan Soto is a stud.
There's no other way to put it.
The 19-year-old outfielder has been a revelation for the Nats, becoming one of the best hitters in the National League after a meteoric rise through the minors this season. He was in A-ball to start 2018, moved to High-A after 16 games, was promoted to Double-A after another 15 games, and jumped straight to the Majors with just eight Double-A games under his belt.
And all he's done since reaching the big leagues is hit .308/.426/.558 with 14 home runs, 50 runs scored, and 39 RBIs in 289 plate appearances. Among players with at least 250 plate appearances, his wOBA of .415 is fifth-best in baseball, as is his wRC+ of 161.
He is a special player who can do things like hit opposite-field home runs off a left-handed pitcher down 0-2 in the count.
Juan Soto is ridiculous. pic.twitter.com/mxRg6rfkzq
— MLB (@MLB) August 7, 2018
There's no debate that, barring an injury or some strange act of God, Soto is going to win the National League Rookie of the Year award, and from a fantasy perspective, any owner who acquired him in season-long leagues when he was first called up landed themselves a surprise superstar, a first-round talent for absolutely nothing.
In dynasty formats, Soto is obviously a coveted asset, but how high has he risen? Should he be valued among the top players in the game?
Rank Among Teens
As Jeff Sullivan noted in a recent piece for Fangraphs, Soto might be having the best offensive season any teenager has had in baseball history, and according to Baseball Reference, if it isn't the best by a teenager of all-time, it's up there.
|Ken Griffey Jr.||1989||506||3.3||16||.748|
If one goes by Baseball Reference's WAR, Bryce Harper's incredible 5.2 bWAR season in 2012 is the standard against which all future teenagers will be measured. He was an everyday starter from the beginning of the season and put up a 5.2 WAR that dwarfs anyone else's, including Soto's 2.3, which currently ranks seventh all-time.
However, there are still roughly two months left in the season for Soto to add to those totals. Offensively, Soto's .999 OPS is the best all-time by a teen, and his WAR, prorated out to the same number of plate appearances as Harper's 597 from 2012 would give him a WAR of 4.6. That would place him second all-time.
Disciplined Beyond His Years
Soto's abilities go beyond his gaudy totals. How he got to those totals is as impressive as the numbers themselves.
Soto has walked in 17.0% of his plate appearances this season and struck out just 18.3% of the time. Among players with at least 250 plate appearances this season, that walk rate ranks sixth in baseball, and his strikeout-to-walk ratio is ninth-best. That's unheard of for a teenager.
Juan Soto has seven walks after falling behind in the count 1-and-2. Dee Gordon has seven walks
— Jeff Sullivan (@based_ball) August 6, 2018
He also is pretty good at not chasing pitches out of the zone, with an outside-of-zone swing rate of 24.4%, which is the 41st-lowest mark out of 248 players with at least 250 plate appearances this year. And incredibly, Soto is actually hitting left-handers better than righties, with a slash line of .371/.451/.694 against southpaws and a .287/.417/.511 slash against right-handers.
So where should we place Soto among MLB players you'd want to own in dynasty leagues? Let's take a look at some of the best position players age 28 and under to compile our list.
Only three players -- Mike Trout, Mookie Betts and Jose Ramirez -- have a better OPS+ this season than Soto does among guys 28 and under. They would all rank above him in terms of keeper status moving forward as guys who have proven it over multiple seasons. Manny Machado isn't far behind and has a longer track record than Soto, so he'd probably be a safer bet, too. Also, Machado is eligible at shortstop, which is a big boost.
Soto ranks above all other rookies, although there are others to consider. Shohei Ohtani (.376 wOBA) is a dynamic talent, both offensively and as a pitcher, although splitting time at both jobs makes him less desirable than Soto at the moment. Players like Gleyber Torres (.367 wOBA), Jesse Winker (.366 wOBA, 14.7% walk-rate and 13.8% strikeout-rate), Miguel Andujar (.348 wOBA) and Ronald Acuna (.347 wOBA) are all highly-coveted rookies.
But Soto is so far advanced for a player his age that one would have to place him in the top-five of position players to own in dynasty leagues moving forward. That's a pretty incredible statement to make about a guy who started the season in A-ball, but Soto has forced his way into the ranks of the elite.