Juan Soto reached base in all five plate appearances in Sunday’s win in the series finale with Texas’s Rangers, with a single and four walks (for an MLB-high 61 free passes before Monday’s game). As his manager, Davey Martinez, said after the game, however, he’d like to see more hits if that’s possible.
“I would like him to walk a couple times and hit the ball a few times,” Martinez said, “but he’s going to take his walks, and that’s — when he’s taking his walks I know he’s ready to hit. So, he’s seeing the ball. He got on base for us and the other guys, [Nelson Cruz] and Josh [Bell], picked us up big time today, they hit the ball well.”
Soto scored two of the five times he reached base in the 6-4 win over the Rangers. Martinez said before the series opener with the Pittsburgh Pirates he went back and watched the win and Soto’s at-bats overnight. From what he saw, Soto really didn’t get much to hit.
“I think, one, they were trying to stay away from him, but like I said, he didn’t chase, which is good,” Martinez explained.
“For me that’s always a good sign. Cause as you know, sometimes, and I’ve seen it where he starts chasing balls because he wants to do too much, but the biggest thing for him is not to chase, you know, if they’re going to walk you, walk you, and those other guys behind you have an opportunity to drive you in. And I thought he did a great job. The biggest thing for me is that when he does get a ball in the strike zone, he has to be ready. He’s not getting very many, but when he does, he’s got to be ready to hit them.”
Looking closely at Soto’s at-bats, however, Martinez said, he did notice that his 23-year-old slugger did take some strikes pretty much right down the middle of the plate (see below):
“I saw one that was 2-0,” Martinez sort-of-joked, “that was — literally I replayed it six times, right down the middle. I was going to ask him why, but when you don’t see very many pitches, and you’re taking, taking, taking, sometimes you don’t pull the trigger, and I want him to be ready to pull the trigger. Like I told him before, ‘I’d rather see you hit a 2-3 run homer than take a walk,’ but like I said, the fact that he does understand and knows the strike zone better than any young player I’ve ever seen, he can do that. He can get away with giving the pitcher a strike and stay in the at-bat.”
Though Soto’s numbers (.223/.377/.438 after he went 2 for 3 with a walk last night) aren’t what we’ve come to expect from the fifth-year star, Martinez said he’ll get there.
“Juan is Juan. Everybody says he’s struggling a little bit, but I look up and his OPS is over .800 [.815 after last night’s game]. So, he’s going to be just fine,” Martinez told reporters.
“He’s got to understand too the two guys behind him are swinging the bats fairly well,” the manager added, “so and that says a lot about Juan Soto and how the league perceives him, because once again they’re not really giving him a whole lot to hit, and they’re trying to face those other guys, and they’re doing well.”
How many times will Soto walk tonight? How many hits will he have? Let’s see…
HERE’S THE NATIONALS LINEUP FOR THE 2ND OF 3 WITH THE PIRATES: