While focusing on how Juan Soto may do in the upcoming 2021 season, a truncated 2020 cut short his rise in the all-time rankings during his Age-21 season. Soto turned 22 in October but through his first 313 games he's accrued 1,349 plate appearances with 226 runs, 69 home runs, 217 RBI, 23 stolen bases and a .295/.415/.557 slash line. Searching back through the record book, Soto ranks fourth in home runs through his Age-21 season along with fourth in on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) with at least 1,000 plate appearances. For reference, here are some of his closest comparisons to this point of career and using the Age-21 search results:

  • Frank Robinson - 302 games, 1,345 plate appearances, 219 runs, 64 home runs, 158 RBI, 18 stolen bases; .307/.378/.543
  • Mickey Mantle - 365 games, 1,552 plate appearances, 260 runs, 57 home runs, 244 RBI, 20 stolen bases; .295/.384/.497
  • Ken Griffey Jr. - 436 games, 1,805 plate appearances, 228 runs, 60 home runs, 241 RBI, 50 stolen bases; .299/.367/.479
  • Ted Williams - 293 games, 1,338 plate appearances, 265 runs, 54 home runs, 258 RBI, six stolen bases; .336/.439/.601

Seeing how well Soto stacks up against fellow Hall-of-Fame talent sheds light on his talent. Although he missed 13 games due to COVID-19 in 2020, Soto showed no signs of rust upon his return and surged to a robust .351/.490/.695 slash line over his 47 contests. Within his slash numbers, Soto finished first in the National League in batting average and second overall. Soto ranked first in the majors in on-base percentage, slugging percent and OPS. Even with time lost in games and plate appearances, Soto finished fourth in the National League in walks (41) and tied for fifth in the major leagues.

Overall, Soto scored 39 runs with 13 home runs, 37 RBI and six stolen bases in his 47-game sprint. His isolated power spiked to .344 with a .478 weighted on-base average (wOBA) and walked more than he struck out. He recorded his lowest swinging strike percentage (6.2 percent) while reducing his swings and misses on pitches outside the zone. It's scary to think Soto improved upon his already impressive plate discipline metrics.

Delving into his Statcast metrics, Soto generated 126 batted ball events in 2020 with 23 barrels (18.3 percent), an average exit velocity of 92.1 MPH, a 51.6 hard hit percentage and .494 expected weighted batting average on contact (xwOBAcon). Here's his rankings by percentile of his underlying data on the site:

  • .451 xwOBA - 100th percentile
  • .332 xBA - 99th percentile
  • .691 xSLG - 100th percentile
  • 18.3 Barrel% - 99th percentile
  • 92.1 MPH Exit Velocity - 90th percentile
  • 14.3 K% - 91st percentile
  • 20.9 BB% - 100th percentile

For a visual account of how well Soto commands the strike zone, here's his zone profile for 2020 courtesy of Statcast:

Since a small sample size can be misleading, no matter how talented a hitter may be, expanding out the numbers closer to a regular season helps when evaluating for the future. Taking Soto's numbers from the second half of 2019 and adding them with the 2020 season yields the following numbers:

  • Soto 2H (2019)-through-2020: 118 games, 513 plate appearances, 96 runs, 32 home runs, 91 RBI, 12 stolen bases; .296/.431/.611

Within this time frame, Soto owned a .315 isolated power, .425 wOBA, a walk rate of 19.1 percent while striking out 17 percent of the time. Against his peers, Soto ranks fourth in runs, tied for 11th in home runs, tied for ninth in RBI and 20th in batting average. He's one of five players with at least 30 home runs and ten stolen bases (Ronald Acuña Jr. , Bryce Harper , Mookie Betts and José Ramírez ). Soto's also one of three players with a higher walk percentage than strikeout rate (Alex Bregman , Anthony Rendon ). Pretty good company for a player entering his Age-22 season.

Part of Soto's success lies in his ability to go with a pitch rather than reliance on pulling a ball for power as evidenced by his spray chart highlighting his line drives and fly ball results from the 513 plate appearances from the second half of 2019 and including last season:

And here are all of his hits over his first 313 games with Washington:

Targeting Soto with a pick in the top five in upcoming drafts makes perfect sense for 2021. His ability to produce power with some pocket speed and potent slash lines enhances any fantasy roster. Here's how two different projection systems foresee his season:

  • Soto Steamer Projection - 150 games, 651 plate appearances, 105 runs, 38 home runs, 110 RBI, 12 stolen bases; .304/.428/.591
  • Soto ZiPS Projection - 154 games, 673 plate appearances, 117 runs, 39 home runs, 130 RBI, 11 stolen bases; .296/.419/.591

Without being on the precipice of his power peak, Soto enters 2021 with his arrow pointing up for fantasy purposes. Since there are so many potential outcomes in terms of games this season, here’s how his numbers prorate using plate appearances (PA) as a guide:

  • 2021 Steamer: Run every 6.2 PA, HR every 17.1 PA, RBI every 5.9 PA, SB every 54.3 PA
  • 2021 ZiPS: Run every 5.75 PA, HR every 17.2 PA, RBI every 5.2 PA, SB every 61.2 PA
  • Career Rates: Run every 6 PA, HR every 19.6 PA, RBI every 6.2 PA, SB every 42.2 PA

So, ZiPS sees a growth in home runs with both predicting an increase in RBI with fewer stolen bases. It's tough to predict the steals so using the baseline predictions makes sense. In the event of any work stoppage, a prorated look at how Soto could do without changing the slash lines by plate appearances may look like this:

  • 300 plate appearances: 50 runs, 17 home runs, 51 RBI, six stolen bases
  • 450 plate appearances: 75 runs, 26 home runs, 76 RBI, nine stolen bases
  • 500 plate appearances: 83 runs, 29 home runs, 85 RBI, ten stolen bases
  • 550 plate appearances: 92 runs, 32 home runs, 93 RBI, 11 stolen bases

Suffice it to say, Soto remains a solid bet to produce no matter the season length or circumstances. Here's to hoping he gets a full season of production to improve his ranking among his peers after his Age-22 campaign. Do not sweat getting the fourth or fifth pick in upcoming drafts since Soto projects to be there. In fact, a case can be made to take him third overall since he's yet to reach his peak with his discipline metrics improving. If he produces more fly balls, a 40-home run season could ensue. As the walk-off to this profile, Soto's top four home runs by distance, mercy:


Statistical Credits:



ZiPS courtesy of Dan Szymborski