The Washington Nationals had a 75.6 percent loss probability when Juan Soto stepped up to the plate against Josh Hader in the 8th inning of the Wild Card game on October 1, 2019. An outfield single could tie the game, a long double could put the team ahead, and a grand slam would be a dagger. An out would probably end the Nationals season. Soto flipped the script to an 87.3 percent win probability for his team when he hit a single that was coupled with an error to score three runs and give his team a lead.
“Just get a base hit up the middle, and try to help to tie the game,” Soto said of his plan as he stepped into the batter’s box.
He was just 20 years old at that moment, a kid at heart and a cold-blooded assassin with a bat. He was not trying to hit a grand slam. Just a single. The runner-up for the 2018 NL Rookie of the Year a year before told you what he was trying to do: tie the game with a single. The Nats got the bonus plan after Soto ripped a 96 mph fastball to right off of bullpen ace Hader, and the ball seemed to slightly change directions and got under Brewers’ rightfielder Trent Grisham‘s glove for an error. If Soto pops-up the ball, the Nats season probably ends there. The baseball gods had other designs.
“Right guy, right spot,” teammate Stephen Strasburg said about Soto.
“[Juan Soto] is excited for all that stuff,” teammate Trea Turner said of how Soto steps up for the big moments. “Some people try to fake it, but he truly isn’t scared of those things or those moments. He seems to perform every single time he gets that chance. He seems to lock it in even more so, and kind of deliver, so just the maturity level I guess, and the willingness to step up in any situation and put a smile on his face, and do it I think is pretty special to watch, especially so young.”
His teammates love him. The fans adore him. He is not scared of anything on the baseball field.
“I mean, for me, why do we got to be scared? If I make myself out, it’s okay, I’ve got another one,” Soto said confidently.
“For me, I won’t ever be scared. I don’t mind who is on the mound or whatever. I just try to concentrate, and I like that. I like the big moments. I was one of the guys when I was a child I always played in a lot of tournaments, there was a lot of pressure, and I love it. Since I was a kid I even love all those moments like that.”
“I just step to the plate and see what they’ve got. For me, I think that’s where it comes from.”
Ability, mindset, and action is why Juan Soto is so valuable to his team. He has turned into a leader.
To build upon @ByMattWeyrich‘s comments from Davey on Juan Soto’s leadership qualities, here is a quote from Jeremy De La Rosa who is the Nats #1 outfield prospect and a young player who Soto has been mentoring in the offseasons: https://t.co/lF2Cyy5zVn pic.twitter.com/06HP2FGQL1
— Talk Nats ⚾ (@TalkNats) February 23, 2021
Soto is just 22 years old now. He is a leader by example and a leader off the field. You hope that his desire to stay with the Nationals is more important than trying to break the bank.