The Washington Nationals would hand 19-year-old outfielder Juan Soto his first Major League start Monday night. And goodness, did he ever repay their good faith. Before his debut, Soto would need just 31 games in A-ball before moving up to Double-A Harrisburg. But injuries would sort of force the Nationals hand a bit, calling him up after just eight appearances there. However, he would slash an impressive .323/.400/.581 with two doubles and two home runs.
So it’s no surprise he got a start so early into his MLB career. Especially against a struggling team like the San Diego Padres. And in the second inning, with runners on second and third and nobody out, Soto would deliver a three-run blast. Not only that, but he would send it 422 feet into left field. He would ultimately pick up another hit and score another run to cap his debut. But per ESPN’s Eddie Matz, Soto didn’t think he got all of it.
“I didn’t think it was going to go out of the park,” he said. “I just run hard, the same I do in the minor leagues. Then I heard the noise, and I know it was gone.”
And if anybody knows how special this moment is, it’s Bryce Harper. After all, Soto is the first 19-year-old to start for the Nationals since… Harper.
“He’s a special player. We’ve seen that throughout the minor leagues, and we saw that in spring training as well. So we’re all just excited for him to be here and excited for him to help us out and super proud of him and just got to keep it going.”
Entering the season, Soto would rank as the No. 56 prospect according to Baseball America, No. 29 according to MLB, and No. 22 per Baseball Prospectus.
As a team, the Nationals are 25-21, but that only places them fourth out in the NL East. However, they are just 3.5 games back of the first-place Atlanta Braves with a run differential of +34. The results will catch up with this talent eventually. And in the meantime, they’ll hope Soto can keep raking. It’s early days as far as his MLB career is concerned, but he’s off to a promising start.
And right now, the Nationals need all the help they can get.