San Diego Padres: Take a walk on the Soto side
When Juan Soto joined the San Diego Padres last year, they knew they were getting a walk-inducing machine. Having been the Bases on Balls leader in 2021, and 2022 looking similar, Soto's zen-like calm at the plate would bring the Padres' offensive cheap baserunning opportunities. Although Soto hasn't recreated his form from the Washington Nationals yet, he's still getting pitchers to walk him.
How Juan Soto is still getting on base for the San Diego Padres
In 2023, Soto's BB% is currently sitting at 28.2% with 31 walks. He is comfortably leading the Bases on Balls table; 24 is the next highest with Adley Rutschman and Max Muncy leading the chase. It's a remarkable statistic when you consider Soto's OPS is .824, which is symptomatic of a continued challenge of truly settling in a Padre uniform. With a below career batting average of .227, compared to his career average of .291 with the Nationals, Soto is not hitting at his potential, but his walk rate is without question continuing at a freakishly high rate.
Discussion around Soto's ability to get walks is nothing new. Back in August 2021, Soto's walk percentage was 30.3, and Mike Petriello was happy to compare him to some of the greats of the game. With Soto not turning 25 until the end of October, the 24-year-old has the second (2021) and sixth-best (2022) season BB% numbers for his age or younger. Only Ted Williams managed to post a better season than Soto. That's Hall of Famer, 19-time All Star, two-time AL MVP, two-time Triple Crown, and six-time AL batting champion Ted Williams.
It's little wonder that Soto has had a slow start to life as a Padre when spoken about in such company. Perhaps the expectation of his $23 million salary weighs heavy on the 24-year-old. Whatever is affecting Soto, he is still able to resist whiffing. The San Diego Union-Tribune quoted Soto saying, "I’ve been doing a lot of things to help myself to get the confidence to go back and do the right things, and I feel good right now." It augurs well for the Padres that Soto feels that he's in a better space and, hopefully, will be getting on base due to hits as much as walks.