Soto named a finalist for NL MVP

Nationals outfielder Juan Soto is one of three finalists for the National League Most Valuable Player, his status announced this evening during an MLB Network broadcast devoted to unveiling finalists for awards voted on by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Soto is joined by two other noted sluggers, the Phillies’ Bryce Harper and the Padres’ Fernando Tatis Jr. The winner will be announced live on MLB Network on Thursday, Nov. 18.

This is the second time Soto has been announced as a finalist for a BBWAA award. In 2018, he finished second to the Braves’ Ronald Acuña Jr. in the NL Rookie of the Year balloting.

In 2021, the 23-year-old Soto led all of Major League Baseball in on-base percentage (.465) and walks (145). He ranked second among NL hitters in OPS (.999), batting average (.313) and runs scored (111). He was the only qualified player in the majors with more walks than strikeouts (93), leading the league with a 1.56 walk-to-strikeout ratio.

Soto-Connects-Blue-Sidebar.jpgSoto slashed .313/.465/.534 last season, hitting 29 home runs and driving in 95 runs. His .465 on-base percentage was the highest in a season since Hall of Famer Chipper Jones’ .470 in 2008, while his 145 walks were the most in a season since Barry Bonds set the major league record with 232 in 2004 and the second-most by any player prior to his 23rd birthday behind Hall of Famer Ted Williams, who had 147 in 1941.

Soto led National League position players in Wins Above Replacement (7.0), per Baseball-Reference.com. According to FanGraphs.com, he ranked among the NL’s top three in Weighted On-base Average (second, .420), Expected Weighted On-Base Average (second, .426), Weighted Runs Created Plus (second, 163) and Wins Above Replacement (third, 6.6).

An NL All-Star for the first time in his career, Soto participated in the T-Mobile Home Run Derby in July and vaulted himself into MVP consideration by hitting .348/.525/.639 with 11 doubles, one triple, 18 homers, 53 RBIs, 87 walks and 57 runs scored in the second half. His .525 on-base percentage ranked eighth in major league history for any player after the All-Star break.

Soto added 20 doubles, two triples, nine stolen bases and scored 111 runs scored in 151 games. He reached base safely at least four times in 26 games. Only Bonds (2001, 2002, 2004), Hall of Famer Babe Ruth (1920, 1923, 1931) and Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig (1931) put together seasons with at least 26 games in which they reached base safely at least four times.

In addition to his runner-up finish in the 2018 Rookie of the Year voting, Soto finished ninth in MVP balloting in 2019 and fifth in 2020.

Harper, the 2015 NL MVP while with the Nationals, slashed .309/.429/.615 with 35 homer and 84 RBIs in 2021, leading the majors in doubles (42), slugging percentage, OPS (1.044) and OPS+ (179). Tatis slashed .282/.364/.611 with an NL-leading 42 homers and 97 RBIs.

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