Juan Soto is 19 years old. He went from being one of the best prospects in baseball in the second half of the 2018 season to the surprise first baseman for the World Series champion Washington Nationals. But his path was one that had a part to play in the Nationals putting together a blockbuster trade to snag him just before the deadline.
For that, Soto is grateful.
“It gives me a lot of peace of mind, to be honest,” Soto told the Post-Dispatch recently. “I don’t really worry about that. I’m just here to win with this team.”
Of course, staying calm hasn’t been easy for Soto. He’s been thrust into one of the biggest roles in franchise history, but Soto’s low profile as a minor leaguer led to him initially wondering how he was going to fit in with the major league squad.
He calls it “a lot of pressure.”
Soto went into the trade like anyone else would -- wondering: Could he make the team? Could he do something to help a desperate club? Could he get in enough games in spring training to make a good impression? Was he really ready for the bigs?
In the end, Soto nailed each question – and more. In his final Grapefruit League game, he played in his first game as a major leaguer, at his new home field, Nationals Park. He hit a towering home run, made a spectacular catch in center field and fielded a few decent swings.
As he tells it, the Nationals came away ecstatic.
“That night, they talked to me, and they were like, ‘We see you. It’s all the same,’” Soto recalled. “You are just a part of the Nationals, just a part of the team.”