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Juan Soto and the numbers that explain the biggest trade deadline deal ever

There are so many ways to explain why Juan Soto was just made the centerpiece of the biggest deal in trade deadline history. But here’s a way I always find fun:

Juan Soto by the numbers — the numbers that explain why a hitter like this just got mixed up in a deal like that.


Soto is 23 years old. I counted 20 players in the Futures Game who were older than him. Those 20 players haven’t even started their major-league careers yet. Soto just got traded for the half the population of La Jolla.


Soto’s career OPS+ is 160. In other words, when you adjust for his era, league and home ballpark, he’s been 60 percent more productive than the average hitter in the majors over the last five seasons. He’s 23! Who does that?

Glad you asked. I checked. These are the only hitters in the modern era with an OPS+ higher than Soto’s through their age-23 season (and at least 2,000 plate appearances):

Ted Williams, 190
Ty Cobb, 171
Mike Trout, 169
Albert Pujols, 165

Juan Soto talks with Albert Pujols during the Home Run Derby. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea / USA Today)

But hang on. Of the top 15 players in modern history on that list, every one of them is a Hall of Famer — except for Trout, Pujols and Soto. Does it seem a little premature to predict Soto is heading for Cooperstown someday? Of course it does. Until you start digesting the idea that everyone who has had this career path is either a Hall of Famer or a Hall of Famer waiting to happen. And on that note …


Have I mentioned that Soto is only 23? Oh, that’s right. It’s come up. But even at 23 — an age at which Chipper Jones hit his first home run — Soto already has launched 119 career homers. History tells us players with that many homers at that age never get traded. But apparently, the historians haven’t spent much time around Padres president of baseball operations A.J. Preller.

Since we just established that Soto is on a Hall of Fame track, I looked at all future Hall of Fame position players in the live-ball era who changed teams in their 20s. Only one of them was Soto’s age or younger at the time he was traded. That was Roberto Alomar, who went from San Diego to Toronto, at age 22, in a memorable 1990 offseason deal that also involved Fred McGriff, Joe Carter and Tony Fernandez.

Alomar had 22 homers at the time of that deal. That’s the most of any future Hall legend who was traded this young. So Soto just blew away Alomar’s record by almost 100 homers.


That’s Soto’s career on-base percentage. Here’s the full list of players with that good of an OBP through their age-23 season (and at least 2,000 plate appearances):

Ted Williams (.481)

That’ll do it for that list.

THE MAGIC NUMBER — 19.02 percent 

Five seasons into his career, Soto’s career walk percentage is 19.02 percent. Here’s your leaderboard for highest walk percentage by any player in the live-ball era through his age-23 season (and at least 1,500 plate appearances):

Juan Soto, 19.02 percent 
Ted Williams, 18.94 percent 

Yes, you read that right. Soto draws walks at a higher rate than Williams, the most selective hitter who ever lived. Who knew that was possible?


Soto has already led his league in on-base percentage twice (in 2020 and 2021).

OBP titles won by all Padres players combined since the franchise was born 53 years ago: One!

That was by a fellow named Tony Gwynn, in 1994.


Before we move on, here’s every hitter in the modern era who has led his league in on-base percentage at least twice by his age-23 season:

Ted Williams (three times)
Stan Musial
Arky Vaughan
Mel Ott
Ty Cobb
Juan Soto

FYI: You can dig up more background on those other five guys in Cooperstown, N.Y.


In his final game with the Nationals, Soto walked three times (and also homered off Max Scherzer), because of course he did. It was the 31st game of three-plus walks in his career. He’s 23!

That’s more than the total number of three-walk games in the entire Padres careers of Tony Gwynn, Dave Winfield and Fred McGriff.

Winfield, 13
McGriff, 10
Gwynn, 7
Total: 30


But it isn’t just the walks. It’s the contact. So here’s Soto, with 50 more walks (464) than strikeouts (414) in his career. And this is where it’s fun to mention one more time: He’s 23!  

So here comes another magical list, of players in the live-ball era with more walks than strikeouts, plus at least 100 career homers, by their age-23 season:

Ted Williams
Mel Ott
Eddie Mathews
Jimmie Foxx
Joe DiMaggio
Juan Soto

That’s five Hall of Famers … and Soto. Ohbytheway, the only one of those guys who has played a game in the last half-century is … Juan Soto.


Finally, Joe DiMaggio is a Hall of Famer. His career OBP was .398.

Joe Morgan is a Hall of Famer. His career OBP was .392.

Honus Wagner is a Hall of Famer. His career OBP was .391.

Tony Gwynn is a Hall of Famer. His career OBP was .388.

So why do I bring that up? Because Soto heads for San Diego with a career on-base percentage of .427. Here’s what that means:

For Soto to have his OBP fall below .400 — basically, to Joe DiMaggio Land — he would have to go 0 for his next 167.

Which seems unlikely.

And that, friends, is why Juan Soto just got mixed up in the biggest trade deadline deal ever.

(Top photo: Nick Wass / Associated Press)

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