Juan Soto has played 24 games as a No. 2 hitter in his career, putting up a .279/.410/.430 line, five doubles, a triple, two home runs, 19 walks, and 21 Ks in 105 plate appearances in the two-hole in his career.
Washington Nationals’ skipper Davey Martinez said last time he hit Soto second, that really, it never hurts to get the 21-year-old slugger as many at bat as he can, and he’ll likely get an extra at bat in that spot as opposed to the middle of the order.
Soto was penciled in as the No. 2 hitter (and designated hitter) in tonight’s lineup when it was released, with the usual No. 2 hitter, Adam Eaton, batting sixth in the series opener in Boston’s Fenway Park.
Soto has a .380/.476/.803 line, six doubles, eight home runs, 12 walks, and 10 Ks in 84 PAs early this season.
Eaton, 31, has put up a .240/.296/.390 line with six doubles, three home runs, eight walks, and 22 Ks in 25 games and 109 PAs so far, with a .280/.333/.460 line, three of his doubles, and two of his home runs in the last 12 games (and 55 PAs).
“I kind of — I wanted to get some kind of production somewhere towards the middle and back end of our lineup,” Martinez said when asked about switching things up a bit.
“Adam is actually swinging the bat well, so I wanted to get him back there, get like a second rejuvenation of our lineup and hopefully he can get on, hopefully he can drive in some runs for us, so that’s all.”
But that’s not all, of course.
“Get Juan up in the two-hole, maybe get him an extra at bat, he’s swinging the bat well,” Martinez added.
“Today he’s DHing. I thought it would be a perfect time to give him — he had yesterday off, get him another day off his feet, but he still gets to get 4-5 at bats today.”
One area of concern in the past has been that having Trea Turner leading off with Soto No. 2, it might discourage Turner’s running game, since stealing second, for example, might in some cases lead opposing teams to pitch around Soto with first base open. Martinez said that’s not a concern, really.
“Trea’s actually done it before,” the manager explained. “He’s actually been smart about how to pick his spots of where to run with Juan hitting behind him. And I told him, I said, ‘Hey, don’t lose your aggressiveness.’ I get it, we want Juan to swing the bat in certain situations where we definitely do want him to hit. He understands that. But there’s also, if they walk him, you’ve still got some pretty good hitters behind Juan and Howie [Kendrick] and [Asdrúbal] Cabrera, so I just want him to play his game.
“I looked at it, we talked about it, and I think, like I said, for me this is about extending our lineup a little bit towards the middle to the back end. I think Adam has been swinging the bat well, and I think he’s going to help us out back there.”
Turner has stolen a 162-game average of 51 bases a season in his career. Thus far in this odd 2020 campaign, the speedy, 27-year-old infielder has stolen just three in 28 games, and he’s been caught stealing three times.
Has his manager noticed anything off with Turner’s running game? Is it circumstantial, as in opportunities aren’t there?
“I think it’s just circumstances,” Martinez said.
“We talk a lot about him just going and picking spots and stuff. He says that he just hasn’t really got in that groove to where — we haven’t been actually ahead of a lot of games, so he’s kind of just trying to pick his spots, but like I said, I hope that moving forward he doesn’t change anything and when he deems he has a chance to steal a bases, go ahead and steal it.”