The Washington Nationals selected the contract of outfielder Juan Soto from Double-A Harrisburg on Sunday and optioned right-handed pitcher Jefry Rodriguez to Double-A Harrisburg. Additionally, the Nationals designated outfielder Moisés Sierra for assignment. Nationals President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo made the announcements.
Soto, 19, joins the Nationals after hitting .362 with 10 doubles, four triples, 14 home runs, 52 RBI, 29 walks, three stolen bases and 33 runs scored in 39 games between Single-A Hagerstown, Single-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg. He leads all of Minor League Baseball in home runs (T1st, 14), RBI (52), and OPS (1.218). He also ranks in all of the Minor Leagues in extra base hits (2nd, 28), slugging percentage (2nd, .757), and on-base percentage (7th, .462). In his last four games with Double-A Harrisburg, he went 8-for-17 (.471) with one double, one homer, six RBI and two runs scored.
Through the first 39 games of the Minor League season, Soto has already taken home three awards. He was named South Atlantic League Player of the Week on April 15, South Atlantic League Player of the Month for April and Carolina League Player of the Week on May 6.
Considered one of the top prospects in all of baseball, Soto is currently ranked by MLBPipeline.com as the No. 15 prospect and by Baseball America as the No. 29 prospect. He entered the season rated by both publications as the No. 2 prospect in Washington’s Minor League system. Baseball America noted that he had the “best strike zone discipline” among Nationals farmhands entering the 2018 season. That plate discipline has allowed Soto to draw 58 walks against just 66 strikeouts in 512 career plate appearances. In 182 plate appearances in 2018, he drew 29 walks while striking out just 28 times.
Soto hit .351 with six doubles, one triple, three homers, 18 RBI, 12 walks and 18 runs scored in 32 games during an injury-shortened 2017 season.
In his first professional season in 2016, he was named the Gulf Coast League Most Valuable Player at the age of 17 - two and a half years younger than the average GCL age. He led the league in hitting at .361, slugging percentage (.550) and was second in on-base percentage (.410). He was promoted to short-season Single-A Auburn late in the season. His .368 batting average between the two stops led all Nationals farmhands and was good for third in all of Minor League Baseball.
Since making his professional debut in 2016, Soto has hit .362 with 30 doubles, eight triples, 22 home runs, 102 RBI, 58 walks, nine stolen bases and 79 runs scored in 122 games.
At 19 years, 207 days, Soto is just the 10th player since 2001 to debut during his age-19 season and first since Los Angeles Dodger Julio Urias debuted on May 27, 2016 at the age of 19 years, 289 days. Soto is the second Nationals player (2005-pres.) to debut at the age of 19, joining Bryce Harper (19 years, 195 days).
A native of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Soto was signed by the Nationals as a non-drafted free agent on July 2, 2015.
Rodriguez, 24, did not appear in a game with the Nationals.
Sierra, 29, hit .167 (9-for-54) with two doubles, four RBI and four runs scored in 27 games with Washington.