It’s still sinking in, but the Washington Nationals are World Series champions. After barely sneaking into the playoffs as a Wild Card, they made a historic run to the Fall Classic, beating a Houston Astros team that was arguably one of the best all-around ballclubs ever in seven games. But the Nationals were rolling, and it didn’t seem to matter who their opponent was. There were many players who helped bring the first-ever World Series title to Washington D.C., but one of the most instrumental ones was a 21-year old who hit a postseason-leading five home runs: Juan Soto.
Soto, one of the most exciting young talents in the game, put his loud tools on full display this October, hitting .277 with five home runs and 14 RBIs in 17 games. In the World Series alone, he hit .333 and became the youngest player in Major League history to hit three home runs in the Fall Classic. He was the sole reason the Nationals even advanced to the National League Division Series, as he hit a go-ahead single against Josh Hader in the bottom of the eighth inning of the NL Wild Card Game against the Milwaukee Brewers. Although he struck out 21 times in just 65 at-bats in the postseason, a lot of Soto’s hits came in clutch moments.
His game-tying home run off Clayton Kershaw in Game 5 of the Division Series gave the Nationals a chance to head into extra innings and win the series, which they did. The 21-year old didn’t go deep once in the Nationals’ NL Championship Series sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals, but he rose to the occasion in the World Series, clubbing three long balls, including two in Game 5 and 6, respectively.
World Series Brilliance
Soto’s two-out walk after an Anthony Rendon home run to cut Houston’s lead to 2-1 in Game 7 of the World Series was extremely vital and showed the type of maturity the outfielder has for such a young player. Knowing he could tie the game with one swing of the bat, Soto remained patient against Zack Greinke and waited for a pitch he could put a good swing on. Soto didn’t get that, so he drew a walk. That resulted in a pitching change for the Astros. Then Howie Kendrick once again came up clutch with a go-ahead two-run home run off the foul pole in right field to silence the Houston faithful.
If it wasn’t for Soto’s walk, the Nationals wouldn’t even have had the opportunity to take the lead in that inning. Time and time again, he has proved to be one of the most important players in the Nationals lineup. No moment seemed too big for Soto in these playoffs.
There were times where he looked anxious at the plate, chasing balls out of the zone. But then all of his big hits in the most important moments erased the lackluster at-bats. He became a headline across the baseball world in the postseason for the “Soto Shuffle,” a boisterous move he created in the minor leagues every time a pitcher threw a ball out of the zone. It was borderline cocky, but his entire presence when he steps in the batter’s box just shows that Soto is dripping with confidence every time he picks up the bat.
If he didn’t back it up with the ability to hit balls out of the yard in the most important times, then there definitely would’ve been a lot more criticism coming his way, especially from veteran players. It could look disrespectful to some, but as Soto voiced in interviews regarding the topic, he uses it as a mechanism to intimidate pitchers and make them nervous.
Representing the Youth Movement
Love him or hate him, Juan Soto represents a very bright future as one of the most electric youngsters in the big leagues. Along with names like Ronald Acuna Jr. Mike Soroka, and teammate Victor Robles, among many others, Soto will be an All-Star for many years to come and a key piece of the Washington Nationals organization.
Add in the fact that Soto is already a World Series champion at the tender age of 21, you better believe he’s hungry to bring another title back to D.C.