Much has been made about the next wave of generational talent. There are two frontrunners leading the pack: Ronald Acuña, Jr. of the Atlanta Braves and Juan Soto of the Washington Nationals.
Readers of this page need no real introduction to either player, so I’ll try to get into the meat of the issue. Currently – and perhaps historically – Mike Trout is the best player in baseball.
Like Soto, Trout kicked off his major league career at age 19. Trout’s dethroning from the pinnacle of baseball is inexorable. Is Soto the successor?
Has this topic been discussed? Assuredly. Is that going to stop me? Not a chance. In order to try to draw a better picture, I utilized FanGraphs comparison tool to get a concise picture of the similarities and differences between the two players, as well as manual comparisons. Since both players played approximately the same amount of time in their age 20 year, the process is simplified for us.
Let’s break it down stat by stat with the leading player italicized:
On Base Percentage
1. Trout (.399)
2. Soto (.401)
1. Trout (.564)
2. Soto (.548)
1. Trout (10.5%)
2. Soto (16.4%)
1. Trout (21.8%)
2. Soto (20%)
1. Trout (.409)
2. Soto (.394)
1. Trout (30)
2. Soto (34)
1. Trout (167)
2. Soto (142)
1. Trout (10.1)
2. Soto (4.8)
What becomes evident is that in some important categories, Trout and Soto are nearly identical.
At times, Soto was even better than Trout. Of course, there were some instances where Trout dwarfed Soto’s numbers, like in fWAR and, to a lesser extent, wRC+. But that’s no reason to fret. A season ago, Soto’s fWAR was tied for 21st best in baseball, putting him in the company of some of the best in the game – as a 20-year-old. The same can be said for his wRC+, which was 12th best in the game.
As for Soto in relation to Acuña, there were different variables in which each player won out last season. For example, Acuña commanded a higher fWAR: 5.6 versus 4.8. But Soto carried a higher wRC+: 142 versus 126. Meanwhile, Acuña hit more home runs: 41 versus 34. Finally, Soto carried a higher wOBA: .394 versus .369.
But remember, Acuña is a year older than Soto, so it wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume that, given Soto’s production a year ago, he could eclipse Acuña’s numbers this year (adjusted for 60 games). It may be too early to anoint Soto next-in-line to take over the top spot in the game, and it may be true that he and Acuña will be 1 and 1A, but my money would be on number 22.