NL's Best Player Under 25: Juan Soto vs. Fernando Tatis Jr.
The National League is loaded with talent, and the two players that begin the best under the age of 25 discussions are Fernando Tatis Jr. and Juan Soto.
Both young stars suit up for the San Diego Padres, who have the pieces to make a run in the National League.
Let’s look into the pair of NL youngsters and conclude who has the current edge between the Padres’ star talents.
It’s been a weird calendar year for Fernando Tatis Jr., to say the least. The 24-year-old was suspended for 80 games in the 2022 season after a positive drug test, in addition to dealing with a broken wrist. The Dominican star didn’t ultimately play a game for the Padres in 2022, and he’ll be looking to make amends with the franchise and get back to being the productive talent he’s shown us.
Tatis Jr. has only played three seasons in the big leagues and tallied 273 games, but he had shown enough to get the Padres to bite on a 14-year deal worth $340,000,000. Talk about a big commitment. That said, the Padres don’t appear shy in dishing out money, and they’ve made it evident that they’re trying to win a World Series right now. The shortstop has already compiled a career .292 batting average and .965 OPS while also mashing 81 long balls. In 2021 he had a real breakout campaign, finishing in the top three in National League MVP voting.The Case for Soto
With Tatis Jr. and Juan Soto on the same team, it’s worth noting that the Padres have yet to back up brinks trucks for the former Washington Nationals phenom. Soto can be a UFA in 2025, so there’s still time to work on an extension. It’s fair to say that San Diego may want to see more from Soto this year after he had a poor run down the stretch in his first taste with the Padres.
One thing is for sure, Soto knows how to get on base, and that’s a valuable tool for any big leaguer. As a whole, Soto has played 617 regular season games at the big league level, and the small sample of 52 where he struggled with the Padres shouldn’t be overly concerning. Soto boasts a career .424 OBP and .950 OPS, showing you how elite he really is. Before last season, Soto finished with the fifth-highest WAR in MLB.The Verdict
There are certainly questions about how Tatis Jr. will perform in 2023 after missing a season of growth as a young player. The Padres have to hope he doesn’t miss a beat and ultimately can mature off the field and be committed to being a top player in MLB.
Soto already has the career accolades with three top-ten MVP finishes in six seasons and a World Series victory in 2019 which he played a substantial role. The on-base king has never finished an entire season with an OBP below .400, and he should see an uptick in production with the kind of support he has around him in San Diego. With Soto able to get accustomed to life in San Diego, he should again be the MVP candidate we’ve grown to appreciate.
Still, the last time we saw both of these players healthy and thriving was in 2021, when Tatis Jr. posted a 7.3 WAR, compared to a 7.0 for Soto. It’s almost impossible to go wrong with either of these players when concluding who’s better, but we’ll lean on the upside and swagger that Tatis Jr. brings to the equation.