Juan Soto hoped the Home Run Derby would knock him out of whatever power funk he'd been in prior to the All-Star Break.
Though he was hitting just fine before — averaging .283 at the plate with an .851 OPS, 11 home runs and 42 RBI — the derby seems to have given him back whatever lift in his swing he appeared to be missing beforehand.
In his first four games back from the break alone, Soto blasted five homers (with two multi-homer games), going 10-for-17 at the plate with two doubles and three walks. He's now batting .550 with a 2.040 OPS in five games since the break.
"Guys within the organization, outside the organization, kept asking, 'Are you worried about Juan Soto? Are you worried about Juan Soto?" We've got a lot of things to worry about. Juan Soto is never one that I ever worry about," Nationals GM Mike Rizzo told The Sports Junkies on Wednesday.
"I look at it this way, with all those great hitters, it's a matter of time," Rizzo said. "If a .300 hitter is hitting .200 at the All-Star break, he's gonna have a killer second half to get to where his numbers usually are. And Juan's the same way. He's a batting champion for a reason. He's a .300 hitter that can hit 30 home runs and carry a club."
"And the fact that he was hitting somewhere in the .270s with 11 or 12 home runs, to me, told me that he was gonna have a monster second half," he said. "He started out seeing the ball really well, and he's putting good swings on it, and he's lifting the ball a little more often.
"He's been hitting the ball hard all season — I think he's number one in exit velocity throughout the season, even when he was going not at his best. He's a guy that is gonna be a constant for us that drives in runs. To get where we want to be this year, our stars have to be stars, and Juan's off to a good start."