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Juan Soto Is The Best Player In The National League But Unfortunately Is On A Last Place Team

 

It's been a bad year for the Washington Nationals. The aging core that won them a championship in 2019 is all but gone. Max Scherzer has been traded. Trea Turner has been traded. Kyle Schwarber, who they acquired during this most recent off-season, has been traded. They've been riding the struggle bus for most of the season, especially in the second half. The only essential piece from their world championship run of 2019 that remains is youngster Juan Soto. The man who was the Nationals' most consistent hitter in the 2019 postseason continues to get better. He's in the midst of another remarkable year and an even more remarkable, one could even say historically good, second half. 

Since the second half began, Soto has been hitting .381 (1st in all of baseball). He's reaching base at a .545 clip (1st in baseball, 56 points higher than anyone else), he's 2nd in the majors in slugging, 1st in wOBA, 1st in wRC+, and 1st in WAR. I understand that it's nearly impossible for someone to win MVP despite playing for a last place team, but Juan Soto is making the argument. His aforementioned .545 OBP would be the highest we've seen by a player in the second half of a season since Barry Bonds in 2004. I tried to go back and find a player in the second half not named Barry Bonds who had a higher OBP in the second half, but the Fangraphs filter I used couldn't find anyone (the first and second half splits didn't seem to become a thing until 1974, at least according to Fangraphs). 

So this begs the question, does Juan Soto, a man who currently leads the National League in bWAR, batting average, on-base percentage, OPS+, and walks, deserve the National League MVP award? I would say yes. Juan Soto is, in my opinion, the best left-handed hitter that baseball has seen since Barry Bonds. I understand that voters take an entire résumé into account. I still believe that Fernando Tatis Jr. will probably win the MVP. Bryce Harper has had a fantastic year, but Bryce Harper's bWAR is currently 5.5, which would be the lowest for an MVP since Justin Morneau won the American League MVP in 2006. If he finds a way to get the Phillies to the playoffs, it will be hard for him not to win the award. The baseball world (myself included) loves Tatis. And while the Padres have wholly fallen off in the second half of the season, you have to consider the entire résumé. He has had a remarkably consistent, great year. Great would be significant enough to win MVP in most years, but Juan Soto is not great. He's historic. Some of his offensive numbers defy all logic. In an age where strikeouts are more prevalent than they've ever been, for a hitter to have 47 more walks than he does strikeouts is borderline comedic. I don't believe he will win MVP, but he would sure as hell have my vote.