Juan Soto wasn’t in the Washington Nationals’ lineup for the series finale against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday afternoon, against a tough left-hander, in Alex Wood, but both GM Mike Rizzo and Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez told reporters they brought the 19-year-old outfielder up to play, and would give him a chance to start on a regular basis while he’s in the majors.
Soto eventually made his MLB debut in a pinch hit appearances late in the Nationals’ 7-2 loss to the Dodgers, and Martinez said after the game that he liked what he saw.
“I told him just go up there and get your hacks and hopefully you get on base and lead us off. I like his swing, I really do,” Martinez said. “He just missed a fastball, fouled it back, and then the thing about his swing is he stays through the strike zone a long time, and I like it.”
As for getting him in the starting lineup, Martinez said he’d look at the numbers and find the best spots, with left-handers lined up for each of the first two games in this week’s three-game series with the San Diego Padres.
“I’m going to look at the matchups when I go back in, but I definitely want him to play one of the next two days,” Martinez explained.
Tonight’s starter, Robbie Erlin, apparently provided a good opportunity, because Soto is in the lineup for the series opener with the Friars.
Erlin, 27, has pretty even splits so far this season (.237/.300/.333 vs LHPs; .230/.246/.350 vs RHPs) and in his career, lefties have fared better (.270/.316/.426) than right-handed hitters (.254/.299/.410).
In small sample sizes this season, Soto was 9 for 18 (.500) with two doubles and two home runs off lefties at Hagerstown (Low-A), 7 for 16 (.438) with two home runs off lefties at High-A Potomac, and 3 for 10 (.300) with one home run in the short time he spent at Double-A Harrisburg.
He’ll get to test himself against a veteran major league southpaw tonight.
The way he prepares for each game is something Rizzo told reporters did play a part in the decision to call him up, and why he think Soto’s skills will play at the major league level.
“Just his thought process, his routine, his preparation,” Rizzo explained.
“His pregame preparation is really different than a lot of players that I’ve been around. He’s got a great routine offensively, he prepares himself defensively to be ready to play.
“And I just think that the mental aspect of him is — he’s mature beyond his chronological age.”