Juan Soto capped his first home run trout with a classic Bryce Harper hair flip – needless to say Soto does not have any hair endorsement deals. Nonetheless that moment may have signified the passing of the torch from one superstar to another potential superstar. Was Soto subtly announcing himself as the new Bryce Harper? The similarities don’t end with just hair flips. The rise of Soto may seal Bryce’s fate as a National.
Let’s first compare these two players. Harper and Soto both reached the minor leagues as teenagers – at the same ripe age of 19. While there, they also performed outstandingly and achieved similar numbers. Soto’s numbers in the minor leagues were .362/.434/.609 compared to Harper’s .397/.521/.917. In addition, although we’re working with a small sample size, Soto’s current slash line for the major leagues is just as impressive as Harper’s, with numbers like .286/.400/.571. Perhaps most significantly, however, they are also both outfielders.
With players like Soto, the reality is that the Nationals may not need Harper in the outfielder position any longer. In fact, Soto might not even be the Nationals best outfielder prospect – Victor Robles, for instance, is regarded as a top 5 prospect in all of baseball. The Nationals outfield has the potential to be made up of an impressive young group of players as early as soon as the start of next season, with players like Eaton, Taylor, Soto, Goodwin, and Robles all there. Since Soto and Robles are going to be cheap young talent for years to come, it’s hard to imagine the Nationals spending record money to keep a player in a position where the team is already pretty deep.
It’s also important to remember that Bryce is not the only big free agent that the Nationals will need to make a decision on during this offseason. Gio Gonzalez is also a free agent, and the Nationals will need to spend a large amount of money to resign or replace him with a comparable third line starter – all of which will take funds away from potentially resigning Bryce. In addition, the free agent Daniel Murphy may also need to be resigned or replaced if it’s decided that Wilmer Difo cannot adequately replace him.
Overall, the fast rise of Soto, the potential of Robles, and the need to replace other free agents are all factors that make it ever more likely that Bryce will leave the Nationals after this season. While his departure would mark the end of one chapter in the Nationals book, it would also symbolize the start of a new and exciting chapter led by Soto and Robles.