Soto wins second straight Silver Slugger Award

Juan Soto’s monster second half was enough to earn the young Nationals star his second straight Silver Slugger Award. We’ll find out in one week if it was enough to earn him his first MVP award.

Soto was honored tonight as one of the recipients of the 2021 Silver Slugger Award, handed out annually to the best offensive player at each position in his league, as voted on by managers and coaches late in the regular season. He joined former teammate and fellow MVP candidate Bryce Harper along with Reds slugger Nick Castellanos as this year’s winners among National League outfielders.

It’s Soto’s second straight Silver Slugger Award, coming on the heels of a shortened 2020 campaign that saw him win the NL batting title and lead the majors in on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS. He didn’t match those numbers during the full 2021 season, but he still managed to get awfully close despite a subpar (by his lofty standards) first half in which he struggled to drive the ball in the air as much as he previously did.

Soto-Swings-Gray-HR-LA-Sidebar.jpgSoto finished the year second in the NL in batting average (.313) and OPS (.999), trailing only former teammate Trea Turner in the first category and Harper in the latter. He still led the league with a .465 on-base percentage and finished eighth with a .534 slugging percentage, thanks to a torrid final three months.

In 72 games following an All-Star break that included a memorable performance in the Home Run Derby, Soto posted a jaw-dropping slash line of .348/.525/.639, producing a 1.164 OPS. That surge catapulted him into the MVP race, despite the fact that his team fell into last place in the NL East and wound up with 97 losses.

“I am so honored to win this award again, and I am very proud to be included in this year’s group of winners,” Soto said in a statement released by the Nationals. “I want to thank my family, who is always there to support me every day. I also want to thank my manager Dave Martinez, my hitting coaches, Kevin Long and Pat Roessler, and the rest of the staff for working with me and pushing me to be the best I can be. This award means a lot to me because it is voted on by opposing managers and coaches. I try to play the game the right way, and having their respect means a lot to me.”

The MVP award will be handed out one week from tonight, but we already know Soto finished no worse than third in voting among members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, joining Harper and Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. as so-called “finalists” based on the balloting that took place prior to the postseason.

“He put together an MVP-caliber season and is very deserving of all of the accolades that continue to come his way,” general manager Mike Rizzo said in a statement. “He’s a pleasure to watch every day, and I couldn’t be happier for him.”

Soto is one of 10 players in Nationals history to win a Silver Slugger Award, the fifth to win it multiple times along with Ryan Zimmerman (2009-10), Ian Desmond (2012-14), Anthony Rendon (2014, 2019) and Daniel Murphy (2016-17). Other winners from the Nats over the years include Alfonso Soriano (2006), Adam LaRoche (2012), Stephen Strasburg (2012), Harper (2015) and Wilson Ramos (2016).

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