Outfielder Kyle Schwarber signed a one-year, $10 million deal with the Washington Nationals this offseason, but that’s not why everyone’s talking about him. The former Cubs World Series champion raised eyebrows when he said Nationals’ left fielder Juan Soto is the best hitter in the game.
“When you look at a guy like Juan Soto, I think he’s the best hitter in the game,” Schwarber said.
Yeah, that’s a league with Mike Trout in it. But according to the numbers, Soto may have a case.
Is Schwarber just blowing smoke up Soto’s tuchus since he just signed as a National? Maybe. Let’s take a deeper look at how the 22-year-old Soto matches up against Mike Trout, the guy most consider to be the best hitter in the league.
I pulled Mike Trout’s career numbers, and as you can see, he’s a shoo-in Hall of Famer with few weaknesses at the plate. Not only is he dominant, he also has longevity on his side. No free agent superstar has ever had the kind of consistency that Trout has shown for nearly a decade.
Mike Trout consistently dominates every offensive category except one: strike outs. In the 2014 season alone, Trout struck out a career-high 184 times, mainly because he wouldn’t lay off high fastballs. He eventually solved this problem, but it was still a part of his career.
That’s where the comparison to rising star Juan Soto really begins.
Check out these numbers:
In the short 60-game season, Juan Soto hit a league-high .351, which is what old-school fans of baseball come to see. The ability to put the ball in play and make things happen is fundamentally how the game is meant to be played. His strikeout numbers dwindled almost instantly after his first season, when he was just 19 years old, and he deserves credit for making adjustments. He has since hit for power, just as Trout does, while also maintaining a staggering career on-base percentage of over .400.
These are Barry Bonds-like numbers. No one besides Soto combines old-school contact with the new-age power game. By the way, take a peak at his 2020 campaign. The kid got on base half the time over a 47-game span.
So, is he the game’s best hitter?
For now, we’ll say no. Mike Trout has been in the game long enough to have his weaknesses challenged. Juan Soto hasn’t been in the bigs 10 years. We’ll see how he fares when big-time pitchers discover a weakness or two.
But this kid is still special. Both old-school and new-school baseball fans have a superstar to enjoy for the next two decades. I would like to say we shouldn’t compare Mike Trout to Juan Soto, but if these numbers continue, we may not have a choice.