Without Juan Soto, the Nationals offense have started off the season limping. Thankfully his return is near, but will it be enough?
Let’s start with the good news first. MLB and D.C. have both cleared Juan Soto to finally return to the Nationals. The heart and soul of the Nationals lineup will be back to staring down opposing pitchers and blasting moonshots into the empty stands. The team is currently off due to their weekend series against the Miami Marlins being postponed. Washington will return to action today against the New York Mets. Without Soto in the lineup, the offense has been stagnant and the team is currently 3-4 because of it. It is still up in the air if Soto will be able to return tonight. Manager Dave Martinez told the media,
"“We’ll see how he feels [Sunday],”. “He hasn’t been able to get out on the field and do anything. We got to get him back [going]. His legs are feeling a little sluggish.”"
Soto is close to returning and his return couldn’t have come at a better time. However, there is more than meets the eye.
Soto Might Start Slow
And now for the bad news. While everyone is clamoring for Soto to return to the lineup, he won’t be able to fix all of the offense’s problems. In fact, Soto himself might get off to a sluggish start. He has been sidelined since Opening Day and was finally able to practice with the team again on Saturday. While he homered in his first practice game back, keep in mind it was against Kyle McGowin. Nothing against McGowin, but up till this point, he has spent the majority of his career in the minors.
Another thing to note, last season Soto started off slow. By the end of April (28 games), the 21-year-old was hitting a measly .248, with six homers, 22 RBIs, and an OPS of .835. It wasn’t until May that he finally started to heat up. In a 60 game season that has already started, the Nats don’t have enough time to wait for Soto to slowly heat up. While Soto was ready to go for Opening Day, he had been shutdown till as recently as Saturday. He hasn’t had ample time to get himself going again and his production might suffer early on because of it.
Soto’s Return Won’t Fully Fix The Offense
The offense has deeply missed Soto’s presence, with the team being tied for 24th in runs scored. Starlin Castro, Howie Kendrick, and Asdrubal Cabrera have all had opportunities at hitting in the three-hole, but unfortunately, none of them were able to do much to fill Soto’s void. Here is all how three did in their limited opportunities.
Starlin Castro: 5 Games, 8-19, 4 Ks
Howie Kendrick: 1 Game, 0-4, 2 Ks
Asdrubal Cabrera: 1 Game, 1-5, 3 RBIs, 1 K
Starlin Castro spent the most time at the three-hole, hence his better numbers. Despite his eight hits, Castro was unable to come up big with runners on. In fact with runners on, Castro went 2-8 with O RBIs, while stranding nine.
Even with Soto back in the lineup, the offense cannot solely rely on one player. Just look at past Angels teams with Mike Trout. The team as a whole has stranded 42 runners in only seven games. That is not good. Eric Thames and Howie Kendrick were supposed to be a big part of the team’s offense, but both have struggled. Kendrick missed the team’s last two games with an injury and has only one RBI. Thames is still acclimating to his new team and is also struggling to produce with runners on. This is seen by his one RBI. As the season goes on the bats should wake up, but the Nats cannot afford to fall too far behind, especially with the Atlanta Braves jumping out to such a hot start.