ATLANTA – The rules say every team needs at least one representative in the All-Star Game, so despite a disappointing season, we knew there would be at least one Nationals player going to Los Angeles for this year’s Midsummer Classic.
That player is Juan Soto, announced on the “MLB All-Star Selection Show” on ESPN.
“It feels great to be part of it representing the Washington Nationals,” Soto said of his selection after today’s loss to the Braves. “It feels great to be out there and be on the list of all the All-Stars that the Washington Nationals have had in the past. And to be around those guys, it feels great.”
There was a lot of speculation as to whether Soto or Josh Bell or both would join Davey Martinez on Braves manager Brian Snitker’s National League team at Dodger Stadium. Now we know it will just be the left-handed slugging outfielder going to his second straight All-Star Game.
“It means a lot not only for me, but for the organization,” Soto said. “To represent the Washington Nationals out there and knowing that Davey is coming with me is gonna be great. We'll see how fun it's gonna be and how excited we will be.”
Entering Sunday’s finale against the Braves, Soto was slashing .242/.395/.474 with an .869 OPS, 16 doubles, 17 home runs, 37 RBIs, 71 walks to 54 strikeouts and five stolen bases.
Soto joins starters Ronald Acuña Jr., Mookie Betts and Joc Pederson and fellow reserves Kyle Schwarber, Starling Marte and Ian Happ in the NL outfield.
“I go enjoy it, get to know more people, get to know more guys and make them my friends,” Soto said. “Even if we fight against each other in the season, it doesn't mean that we're going to be bad guys outside the game. So I think I just go and try to enjoy the game as much as I can.”
Like last year, Soto is streaking into the All-Star break, riding a now 20-game on-base streak, thanks to a single in the top of the first inning in today’s game. That is tied with the Rockies’ C.J. Cron for the longest active streak in the majors.
Over the streak’s first 19 games, Soto posted a .500 on-base percentage. His longest on-base streak is 21 games, which he’s done three times. Soto leads the majors in walks and is second in the NL in on-base percentage.
Soto’s bat has really heated up over his past 12 games. He’s hitting .455 (15-for-33) with a 1.405 OPS, two doubles, three homers, six RBIs, 14 walks and 11 runs scored.
This is Soto’s second career selection to the All-Star Game after making the team last year as a reserve at Coors Field. Of course, he drew two walks in his only plate appearances in the game.
“I hope it’s gonna be fun,” Soto said of going to his second straight All-Star Game. “The first time was really fun. So I hope this one too.”
Soto also participated in the Home Run Derby last year, but he has not yet committed to this year’s event.
He’s also looking forward to reuniting with former teammates next week in L.A., including Trea Turner.
"That guy is really fun,” Soto said of Turner. “I hope we're gonna have a good time there and try to convince him to come back. We will see.”
As for Bell, he just missed out on making his second-career All-Star roster, having been named to the team as a reserve in 2019 as a member of the Pirates.
“Definitely,” Soto said when asked if he thought Bell should have been an All-Star. “He's put up the numbers. He has everything to be an All-Star. Why not?”
Like Soto, Bell has been on a hot streak lately. He entered today slashing .358/.447/.679 with nine doubles, one triple, five home runs, nine RBIs, 11 walks and 12 runs scored in his last 22 games.
As of this morning, Bell ranked third in the National League in on-base percentage (.389), tied for third in multi-hit games (29), fifth in average (.308) and strikeout percentage (13.3), tied for fifth in hits (96), eighth in OPS (.886) and wOBA (.381), and ninth in wRC+ (145).
Among NL first baseman, Bell ranked first in strikeout percentage, second in average and on-base percentage, third in wOBA and wRC+, fourth in slugging (.497) and seventh in RBIs 47.
Bell also led all major league hitters in average and on-base percentage while ranking second in slugging and OPS.
Unlike Soto in the outfield, Bell is in a deep position that only one person can play at a time. However, the designated hitter could have made it possible to make room for Bell.
Pete Alonso and Cron will back up starter Paul Goldschmidt for the NL squad.
It should be noted that these selections are made by Major League Baseball. Soto is an obvious superstar and maybe the face of the game. And the aforementioned All-Star roster rules say each of the 30 clubs needs at least one representative. Cron was really the only Rockies player under consideration, further hurting Bell's chances.
Injuries do happen, and sometimes players choose not to attend the festivities (i.e. Anthony Rendon), so Bell’s chances of going to the All-Star Game aren’t completely nil.
The 92nd Major League Baseball All-Star Game will be played at Dodger Stadium on July 19 and will be televised on FOX.