By: Joe Frisaro
World Series ring? Check!
Batting champ? Check!
Silver Slugger Award winner? Check!
Juan Soto keeps marking off major achievements on his baseball wish list. The hardware keeps piling up for the Washington Nationals’ slugger, who is one of the bright young faces of Major League Baseball. Born on Oct. 25, 1998, Soto is a native of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic.
Signed as an international free agent by the Nationals in 2015, the left-handed hitting outfielder fast-tracked his way to the big leagues. Soto made his MLB debut on May 20, 2018 at the age of 19, and finished second to Atlanta’s Ronald Acuna Jr., for National League Rookie of the Year.
A year later, at 20, Soto displayed nerves of steel as an unflappable contributor on the Nationals’ World Series championship team. Soto’s vast skill set makes him one of the truly elite players in the sport today. In the eyes of some, he’s already the best pure left-handed hitter in baseball. It’s hard to argue otherwise. Soto was the National League’s 2020 batting champion, and his .351 average was second highest in the Majors. He also paced the league in on-base (.490) and slugging (.695) percentages.
When it was time to hand out the 2020 superlatives, Soto received his first Silver Slugger Award, and finished fifth in the National League MVP voting. Nicknamed “La Fiera,” Spanish for “Childish Bambino,” Soto grew up on the game of baseball. His father, Juan Sr., played catcher in a men’s league in the Dominican Republic and introduced his son to the sport at an early age.
Family and faith are both special to Soto, especially during holiday gatherings. In December, on Soto’s Twitter account, the baseball phenom posted a video of himself with family members making “Dominican tamales.” Recognized as a “student of the game,”
Soto also is a showman at the plate. “The Soto Shuffle” is his trademark between pitch routine. After taking a pitch, lowers his hips and takes a long stride forward, before shuffling back, all in a crouched position. It’s a routine he started years ago, and he employed it during his days in the Minor Leagues. “The Soto Shuffle” became a thing in the 2019 playoffs, where it received national and international attention.
“It’s a fight, just the pitcher and me,” Soto said in a 2019 ESPN.com interview. All in good fun, “The Soto Shuffle” is just another reason why Juan Soto is one of MLB’s “must-see” players.
Joe Frisaro enters his 20th season covering Major League Baseball. The past 19, he was the Miami Marlins site reporter for MLB.com (2002-2020). Frisaro has 38 years of professional sports writing experience. His latest venture is his baseball/social media web site: www.ManOnSecondBaseball.com. Follow Joe on Twitter @ManOn2nd and @JoeFrisaro