Juan Soto crushing Carolina League pitching, playing some center field

Juan Soto continued to pummel minor league pitching last week with a .522 average and five homers, earning the 19-year-old the Carolina League Player of the Week honors.

Nationals director of player development Mark Scialabba said having a healthy Soto means everyone gets to see what the system’s hottest prospect is capable of producing.

baseballs-generic-art-nats.jpgSoto has recorded at least a base hit in 12 of the 14 games he has played for the P-Nats. In 30 minor league games this season, between low Single-A Hagerstown and high Single-A Potomac, Soto is hitting .379 with eight doubles, four triples, 11 homers and 39 RBIs. His overall OPS is 1.288. His slugging percentage is .802.

Here is more on his eye-popping All-League power numbers in the first six weeks of the season:

His five homers in the South Atlantic League are tied for third and he hasn’t played a league game there since April 23.

His six homers are tied for the lead in the Carolina League and he has played 17 games less than leader Micker Adolfo of Winston-Salem (six homers, 31 games).

Last season, Soto was limited to 32 games because of an ankle fracture and then a hamate issue in his wrist.

He was on the disabled list from May 4 to Sept. 27, 2017. Soto had rehab assignments with the Rookie-level Gulf Coast Nationals in July and August.

“Proud of Juan, not only because of the season he is having but the fact that he is healthy and strong,” Scialabba said. “Worked extremely hard last year, very unfortunate year. But he learned so much about himself physically. He put a lot of time and effort into this offseason. He was prepared from day one of spring training. Champing at the bit ready to go. Continues to impress all of us with his ability to see pitches, understand strike zones, not expand, but do damage to pitches that he can handle and hit the ball to all fields.”

These 11 homers in 30-plus games are stunning, but Scialabba said this is just the tip of the iceberg of the potential we will see from Soto.

“It’s very impressive. The power is still blossoming but he wants to be a complete player. He works extremely hard on the defensive side of the ball. He’s always working hard on his base running as well, learning how to read pitchers.”

Scialabba said the Nats have put Soto in center field recently to see what else he can do with his athleticism and expand his experience at all outfield spots.

“He’s a corner outfielder, but he can play center field,” Scialabba said. “We are getting him some reps there to give him exposure to all positions in the outfield. He has a big, physical frame, someone that is going to continue to grow and get stronger.

“He’s only 19, obviously, the maturity is not complete. He profiles more to the corner down the road, but if it is something that he is able to learn the nuances of each position in the outfield so that he can improve his value.”

If Soto continues to hit like this and stay healthy, Double-A Harrisburg will soon be his next stop, as well as his name in the Top five of prospects in baseball for 2018.

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