Whether in the minors in April and May, the majors from June to September or Japan in November, Juan Soto never stopped hitting this year.
Soto capped off his remarkable rookie season by excelling at the plate over the last week as a member of the Major League Baseball All-Star Series team that traveled across the Pacific Ocean to face the Japanese national club in six-game series.
The Nationals’ 20-year-old outfielder hit .350 (7-for-20) with two doubles, two homers, five RBIs and a 1.159 OPS that ranked second only to Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina’s 1.279 mark during the series.
Soto homered in each of his first two games, each one an opposite-field shot. Then, in his third game, he hit a ball off the roof at the Tokyo Dome that was caught by a Japanese outfielder off the carom, which is an out according to the stadium’s ground rules.
Soto started the first five games of the series, all in left field, and batted fifth in four of those games (he hit sixth the other time). He was joined in the outfield by newly crowned National League Rookie of the Year Ronald Acuña Jr., who played all three positions but hit just .208 (5-for-24) with one double, one homer, one RBI and a .583 OPS.
The MLB All-Stars went 1-5 on the trip, only the third time Japan has won the series in 11 tries since the event was first held in 1986. The MLB team held late leads in Games 1, 4 and 5 only to lose each.
Soto was the lone Nationals player on the team, but bullpen coach Henry Blanco was part of manager Don Mattingly’s staff, and vice president of clubhouse operations and team travel Rob McDonald also accompanied the squad on the trip.