Juan Soto started the night in Atlanta with 99 career home runs over 469 games and 2,025 plate appearances, which once again put the 23-year-old slugger in some pretty heady list company as the Washington Nationals highlighted in their pregame notes for the second of three with the Braves in Truist Park.
“According to the Elias Sports Bureau,” the Nationals wrote, “Soto (23 years, 169 days) will join the following list of active players to hit their 100th career home run at age 23 and younger: Miguel Cabrera (23 years, 127 days); Bryce Harper (23 years, 181 days); Ronald Acuña Jr. (23 years, 184 days); Albert Pujols (23 years, 185 days); Giancarlo Stanton (23 years, 221 days); Mike Trout (23 years, 253 days).”
Juan Soto said it feels like an honor to be among those who have hit 100 home runs: "It means a lot. It’s just a number that not many players get to."— Jessica Camerato (@JessicaCamerato) April 13, 2022
Soto’s first this season was a 428-foot shot on Opening Day in the nation’s capital, which landed in the second deck above the bullpen in Nationals Park.
His manager, fifth-year skipper Davey Martinez, was asked after the opener if he is still at times surprised by the power his right fielder possesses, and he said, honestly, “No.”
“Nothing really surprises me when it comes to his hitting,” Martinez said.
“He understands what he needs to do each and every pitch, and he’s fun to watch. Often — everybody — when he’s up there hitting, everybody really hones in on what he’s doing, and what he’s trying to do. He’s just fun to watch.”
More than the power, however, Martinez stressed, it’s Soto’s overall approach which sticks out when you watch him play on a daily basis.
“Once again, we all know he has power, but here’s a guy that every time he steps to the plate he tries to hit line drives up the middle,” the manager said.
“That’s what his focus is on, but he’s really good,” Martinez added.
“He knows the strike zone and he knows what balls he really can hit hard, so it was nice to see him get that first one out of the way on Opening Day and we’ll move on from there.”
In career game No. 470 last night, and his 2,028th PA, Soto hit career HR No. 100, a 451-foot shot to right-center in the Braves’ home.
His manager’s thoughts after seeing Soto reach another milestone early in his career?
“Well, I never got there, one,” Martinez joked. “But it’s awesome. He’s so young, and for him to get his 100th home run at this early stage of his career, he’s going to ... hit a lot more so I’m happy for him, but he swung the bat well today, he really did. I think he hit a ball 112 MPH or something like that, and the home run he hit wasn’t a cheapy neither, he crushed that ball, so I hope he hits many, many more this year, maybe a few tomorrow.”
His message for the slugger after Soto hit his 100th?
“I said, ‘Hey, great swing, stay right there, and keep it going.’ I didn’t want him to think, you know — I’ll talk to him tomorrow about it, but like I said, just watching him and watching his approach, as we all do, he doesn’t take any at-bats off. I told him, he’s played the game, his last at-bat, I said, ‘Hey, you be you, don’t get caught up in the — just work a good at-bat, and he did.”
Soto walked in his final plate appearance of the night in the eighth, finishing the game 2 for 3 with the free pass in a 16-4 loss.
Juan Soto on 100 HRs: "I never tried to hit a homer, or anything like that. I’m one of the guys who just tries to hit singles every day. So for me to become consistent hitting homers, it’s just impressive, and it tells how good I’ve been working on my body and everything."— Jessica Camerato (@JessicaCamerato) April 13, 2022