April 17, 2024

Five Star Sport

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Padres Star Juan Soto Finally Feels Like His Old Self With His New Team; That Makes Him the NL MVP Favorite

6 min read
Padres Star Juan Soto Finally Feels Like His Old Self With His New Team; That Makes Him the NL MVP Favorite

Juan Soto is prepared to have a huge rebound in 2023 after having a disappointing year by his standards.

For the star Nationals player Juan Soto, the previous year was rife with trade rumors and contract negotiations. The topic of discussion at his second All-Star Game in a career was where he would end the season. As the year came to a close, Soto, who is now a member of the Padres, participated in the NLCS for the second time in four years. He experienced a poor season at the plate along the way.

Wait, what?

Yes, it was a difficult year. If we take Juan Freakin’ Soto’s baseline into account, it might even be worse.

We can present two true statements in a way that makes them appear to be in conflict. Sports can be amusing in that sense. Watch:

  • In 2022, Soto experienced a bad year.
  • Soto was excellent in 2022.

That is what happened as a result of Soto setting the bar so high at such a young age. The performance we witnessed would have greatly impressed us had we been able to separate what we already knew about Juan Soto prior to the 2022 season.

Consider that Soto’s on-base percentage placed him sixth in the majors. The league average slugging percentage was.395, and he slugged.452. One of the 20 hardest hitters in the league to strike out, he led the majors with 135 walks while striking out just 96 times in 664 plate appearances. He was an All-Star, a Silver Slugger winner, and hit 27 home runs.

Soto is rated as All-Star caliber by WAR with a 5.6 score. He outperformed the average hitter by 45% according to wRC+. He was 49 percent superior to the average hitter in terms of on-base percentage and power hitting (OPS+).

He was only 23 years old despite all of that. Soto accrued more than double the amount of plate appearances that 25 other players age 23 or younger saw in the majors last season.

Let’s assume for the sake of argument that Soto was a rookie and that we knew nothing about him on an MLB level. He recently recorded an on-base percentage of more than.400, a 149 OPS+, and 27 home runs. Throughout the entire season, he walked 39 more times than he struck out. This young player’s combination of power and on-base skills, coupled with the way he already reads the strike zone, would give anyone insane amounts of confidence in his future as a superstar.

However, Soto was already a legend. While keeping the middle of the order steady for a World Series champion, he placed ninth in the MVP voting in 2019. He hit.322/.471/.572 between 2020 and 2021, which is a staggering 185 OPS+.

That type of foundation is why, in 2023 spring training when the subject was Juan Soto, the questions were less about how great he was in 2022 and more in the ballpark of, “what was wrong last year?” and “can you get back to what you were before?”

Not that he was offended by any of those inquiries. Soto is aware of the fact that his performance in the previous campaign was uneven. He spoke about it in public. On his first day back from the World Baseball Classic, he did so in front of CBS Sports in the Padres’ training facility.

“Mechanically, I was off last year,” Even looping in the spring training of 2022, Soto said. “The whole year, I was unable to locate my mechanics.”

However, Soto was adamant that it was just his mechanics at the plate and denied any possibility that contract extension discussions or eventual trade rumors may have interfered with him or distracted him.

A batter may talk about whether or not they feel at ease or uneasy inside the box. At times, he is even unable to pinpoint the cause. Sometimes it’s just a feel thing, whether he feels off, completely trapped, or somewhere in between. It’s probably just as much mental as physical — and perhaps that’s where the distraction came in, even if he wasn’t aware of it — but there’s undoubtedly something to it when it comes to an athletic task as challenging as hitting a baseball.

Whatever it was, Soto stood out as unique. After posting batting averages of.292,.282,.351 and.313, respectively, in his first four years, he finished with a.242 mark. It’s possible that Soto could gain some batting average points as a result of the shift limits, which some people might speculate will help. However, the real issues with Soto, on a relative scale, were elsewhere.

In-depth analysis of his batted-ball data reveals that Soto struck the ball much less forcefully in 2018 than he did in 2020–21 (his hard-hit percentage dropped from 51.6% to 52.7% to 47.4% last season, and his overall exit velocity average dropped by an entire two miles per hour). In addition to his fly ball rate increasing from 2021 to 2022 by over 8%, which included many infield flies (his 10.8 percent was by far the highest of his career), he hit the fewest line drives in his career.

Simply put, last season he was popping the ball up far too frequently while hitting the ball less forcefully than ever. I’m willing to bet that Soto’s discomfort in the box was the root of almost all of the issues there.

He feels more like it’s 2020 or 2021 here in 2023.

“I feel great. I feel my timing is right at this point and I just gotta keep grinding,” he said. “I’m more of a 2020 or 2021 person. I see the ball and strike it using all the conventional methods.”

The old ways, including 2020 and 2021? Uh oh, pitchers …

Soto had a 2020 batting line of.351/.490/.695. Despite the fact that the season was shorter and only consisted of 47 games, the year was absurd.

He was such a beast in 2021 that despite the Nationals losing 97 games, he came in second in the NL MVP voting.

Spring stats are generally to be taken with a grain of salt, but for those interested, Soto has hit like his “old” self too: 8 for 14 with three doubles and a home run. Although the World Baseball Classic is not the same as regular season baseball, it is undoubtedly much more intense than both spring training and the majority of regular season games. Soto was 6 for 15 with three doubles and two home runs. Although the sample size is small and the competition is different, adding these numbers together for fun results in a batting average of.482/.529/1.000 with six doubles and three home runs in 34 plate appearances. That’s some small-sample terror, but it is substantial terror.

There is, of course, another level to it. When it came to facing Soto, opposing pitchers had a somewhat reprieve the previous season. If this season marks a return to form, it would be the worst-case scenario – especially with a Padres lineup that still features Manny Machado and adds Fernando Tatis, Jr. back soon enough and has added Xander Bogaerts.

Combine all of the elements. As of right now, Soto appears to be the league’s top hitter. In the box, he feels at ease once more. Last season, he displayed some statistical outliers in his play, but he’s likely to correct them this year. Around him, there is an impressive lineup. Furthermore, he is only 24 years old.

In light of Soto’s +450 (4.5 to 1) MVP odds from Caesars Sportsbook, I believe this is the most reasonable response.

Juan Soto of the San Diego Padres has been chosen as the 2023 National League MVP. While you still have the chance, join in the fun.

Reference: www.cbssports.com

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