“He’s probably going to end up getting a whole lot more, but the kid is so young,” manager Dave Martinez said following the Nats’ 7-1 loss to the Giants at Nationals Park. “Like I’ve said before, the sky is the limit with him.”
Per Elias Sports Bureau, the slugging right fielder became only the seventh active player to record 500 hits at age 23 and younger. Soto (23 years, 179 days) now ranks among Bryce Harper (22 years, 324 days), Mike Trout (22 years, 337 days), Miguel Cabrera (23 years, 24 days), Manny Machado (23 years, 78 days), Albert Pujols (23 years, 170 days) and Elvis Andrus (23 years, 268 days) in the category.
On that list, one name is particularly meaningful to Soto. He has been motivated by the storied career of Cabrera and his current pursuit of 3,000 hits, a head-turning number that has been achieved by only one other active player — Pujols. Soto said getting closer to Cabrera’s mark is “pretty cool.”
“Not only me, but he inspires all the players, all the Latin players that know where we come from,” Soto said. “No matter how hard or how bad the road is, you’ve just got to go through it and don’t think about anything else, just come everyday to play hard and forget about all the results.”
So 500 hits down, only 2,500 more to go.
“Yeah, why not?” Soto said. “All the players in the big leagues, they dream about it that one day they can be up there. If I get up there, I will be more than blessed, and I’m happy to keep going.”
“Keep going” is a mantra emphasized by Soto at the plate. He entered the game two hits shy of 500, one night after popping out to third in a two-out, ninth-inning, bases-loaded opportunity while trailing the D-backs by one run.
Soto didn’t view this as a bounceback opportunity, but rather a fresh start.
“Not even a little,” he said of focusing on the previous evening. “It’s just another day. It’s another beautiful day to come out and play a game. Whatever happens, it happens. You’ve just got to forget about it and keep going, keep grinding and keep coming back and doing my best.”
In his first at-bat of the game, Soto singled into right field at a Statcast-estimated 107.3 mph off San Francisco starter Sam Long.
He achieved the landmark hit two innings later when he belted a double 387-feet deep into center field against reliever Jakob Junis. Soto didn’t let up as he raced around second base, though, and slid into third for a triple. The extra-base attempt was thwarted by Mauricio Dubón’s throw to Wilmer Flores, which was confirmed as an out after an official review.
“It’s impressive,” Giants outfielder Austin Slater said. “I think he’s one of the best hitters in the game. All hats off to him. Hopefully there’s many more to come, just not against us.”
Soto carved his place in team history (2005-present) as the 10th player to collect at least 500 hits as a member of the Nationals, alongside Ryan Zimmerman (1,846), Anthony Rendon (994), Harper (922), Ian Desmond (917), Jayson Werth (781), Trea Turner (769), Danny Espinosa (598), Cristian Guzman (581) and Wilson Ramos (566).
“It means a lot,” Soto said.