Juan Soto putting together a special season with Padres

Aug 7, 2023; San Diego, California, USA; San Diego Padres left fielder Juan Soto (22) hits a single against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the fifth inning at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Juan Soto is doing typical things for the Padres, yet it feels like his solid season is going under the radar.

Juan Soto is held to an extremely high standard, as he should be. Some call him a modern version of Ted Williams. That may be unfair, yet here we are.

As such, Soto came to San Diego with a ton of fanfare last August. He had an underwhelming opening act for the Padres to finish 2022.

However, this season has been a different story. In fact, in some ways, it has been one of Soto’s finest efforts in his six-year career. Yet, why does it feel like his 2023 season is going under-appreciated?

The easy answer is that it is due to the team’s overall reluctance to act like a competent baseball team on a consistent basis.  The Padres have not been at .500 since May 11. They currently sit four games back of the final Wild Card spot. Be that as it may, Soto is putting together one of his best seasons statistically.

In a development as surprising as a California burrito being delicious, Soto leads all MLB in walks with 99.

He is tied for the team lead with 108 hits. No Padres hitter has more homers, RBI, or a higher on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, or OPS+.

In comparison to his other seasons, Soto is having an above-average season for even his standards.

His career slugging is .525, with his career OPS at .949 and OPS+ sitting at 158.

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This season, he has a .523 slugging percentage, with a .942 OPS and 162 OPS+. All near or better than his career averages.

His 162 OPS+ would be the third-highest of his career. It also ranks fourth in all of baseball. Soto currently has a higher OPS+ than the likes of Mookie Betts, Matt Olson, Luis Robert, and Kyle Tucker.

This season also marks the highest hard-hit rate of his career, at 57.9%. That’s a large jump from last year’s  47.4 mark. With 4.4 bWAR, he ranks 12th in MLB. He is on pace for 6.3 WAR, which would be the second-best season of his entire career.

Basically, if Soto keeps this up, he will at least receive MVP votes. Perhaps he will even crack the top five.

All this, and it seems Soto still disappoints some fans. Yet, he is the Padres’ best overall hitter at the moment. Arguably, he is still a top-five hitter in this league.

Yes, the team’s overall record puts a sour note on the 2023 season. However, that shouldn’t discount the incredible season Soto is having in a contract year. The Padres should do all they can to reach an agreement to an extension with him.

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