Maybe the cure for Juan Soto’s struggles to elevate the ball is to hit a bunch of balls at high elevation in the Home Run Derby.
Whether it helps him rediscover his power stroke or not, Soto is going to participate in Monday night’s derby at Coors Field, the Nationals star outfielder announced today.
It’s Soto’s first career appearance in the Home Run Derby, and it coincides with his first career All-Star selection.
The timing may seem a bit off, given that Soto is currently struggling through the worst sustained power drought of his career. Despite continuing to hit the ball as hard as ever, and despite reaching base at his usual elite clip, the 22-year-old has produced only 10 homers in 309 plate appearances entering tonight’s game in San Diego. His .438 slugging percentage is nearly 100 points below his career mark, nearly 260 points below his league-leading mark of .695 last season.
Soto actually has the lowest home run total of any of the seven derby participants who have been announced so far. He’ll be joined in Colorado by Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani, Mets first baseman Pete Alonso, Rockies shortstop Trevor Story, Orioles first baseman Trey Mancini, Royals catcher Salvador Perez and Rangers outfielder Joey Gallo, with one more slot still to be filled.
Soto will be the third Nationals player to take part in the Home Run Derby since the club arrived in town, joining Alfonso Soriano (2006) and Bryce Harper (2013, 2018). Harper famously won the 2018 derby at Nationals Park, besting then-Cubs slugger and now-Nats All-Star Kyle Schwarber in a dramatic final round.