Juan Soto and Yankee Stadium’s right porch are a match made in heaven

Yankees star slugger Juan Soto is chatting with teammates during the spring training camp in March 2024.
Michael Bennington
Friday April 5, 2024

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Despite being a newcomer in the Bronx, Juan Soto is no stranger to the enticing short right-field porch at Yankee Stadium, a feature that often tantalizes left-handed power hitters.

While there is a possibility that Juan Soto could benefit from his new home ballpark and hit a few additional home runs down the right-field line, he is not the prime example of a batter looking to exploit Yankee Stadium, which tends to favor left-handed pull hitters. However, it may be unjust to anticipate the 25-year-old to aggressively pursue home run records by utilizing the short, right-field porch in The Bronx.

The star slugger possesses a versatile swing capable of making an impact across the field, scattering balls in various directions. However, this particular swing is one that can rein in records if he tries a right-field wall positioned 314 feet away from home plate.

Juan Soto achieved a career-best with 35 home runs during his tenure with the Padres last season. Interestingly, counter to common belief, it is probable that his home run tally would have been lower if he had played all his home games at Yankee Stadium.

Based on Statcast data, it appears that eight of his home runs from the previous season would likely not have cleared the fences at Yankee Stadium, considering variations in wall heights, distances, and environmental conditions (where warmer climates facilitate better ball travel). There is a likelihood that some of his pulled doubles or deep flyouts from the same season might have transformed into short-porch home runs in The Bronx. However, Juan Soto doesn’t predominantly pull balls.

According to Statcast, Soto launched a total of 196 batted balls into the air last season, encompassing both line drives and fly balls. Only 49 of these (25 percent) were directed toward right field. A significant portion of his batted balls (86, roughly 44 percent) were directed to center field, with another 61 (approximately 31 percent) aimed at left field, both of which are deeper sections of the Stadium.

Juan Soto is posing in the Yankees' pinstripes in February 2024.
NYY

While the slugger’s ability to utilize the entire field is a strength as a hitter, it may not align with the strategy of taking advantage of the short porch. There is a possibility that Juan Soto could consider adjusting his approach and focusing on pulling more balls, especially given the dimensions of his new home park. However, it’s worth considering the potential risks of altering a plan that has set him on a trajectory toward the Hall of Fame.

The Yankees have been in dire need of a hitter like Juan Soto for various reasons, one of which is their struggle to find proficient left-handed batters. Last season, Yankees lefties managed just a .673 OPS, ranking as the fourth-worst in baseball, despite the enticing right field dimensions.

Juan Soto, regardless of the challenges posed by the short porch, is expected to address this deficiency. In the limited sample size of seven games and 28 plate appearances as a visitor at the Stadium, Juan Soto has showcased his superstar prowess, boasting an impressive 1.219 OPS with four home runs and a double.

These home runs have been diverse: one to right-center and down the left-field line (in 2018), one to center (in 2021), and another to the second porch in right field (in 2023).

But Juan Soto dismisses the enticement

During his introductory Zoom call, Juan Soto acknowledged the unique outfield dimensions, playfully hinting at the potential for an increased home run output. However, Juan Soto made it clear that he has no intentions of drastically altering his approach at the plate, the very approach that has fueled his success throughout his illustrious career.

“Consistency is the key,” stated Juan Soto, emphasizing his commitment to the hitting style that has served him so well. He plans to continue executing the approach that has proven to be highly effective.

While the short porch in right field might tempt him to pull the ball more frequently, Juan Soto recognizes that his true strength lies in driving the ball to left-center field. He intends to maintain this approach as a cornerstone of his batting strategy.

This strategy has undeniably paid dividends for Juan Soto throughout his six-year major league career. His impressive batting average of .284, on-base percentage of .421, and OPS of .946 stand as testaments to his success.

Beyond his power-hitting prowess, Juan Soto is renowned for his exceptional plate discipline. He thrives on utilizing the entire field, avoiding the temptation to rely solely on pulling the ball. This ability to adapt allows him to feel comfortable in various ballparks, despite having limited experience at Yankee Stadium.

Overall, while Juan Soto embraces the hitter-friendly confines of Yankee Stadium, fans can expect him to remain true to the approach that has made him a star. His focus on consistency and disciplined hitting will likely continue to deliver impressive results for the Yankees.

Aaaron judge and juan soto, players of the new york yankees
AP

Home crowd eager to see Juan Soto blasting

While Juan Soto’s appearances in pinstripes have been infrequent, his seven games at Yankee Stadium as a visitor have been remarkably productive. He boasts an impressive .261 batting average and a staggering 1.219 OPS, showcasing his ability to thrive in the hitter-friendly confines of the ballpark. Among his six hits, a remarkable four have been home runs, demonstrating his prowess as a power hitter across his 28 plate appearances.

“It’s a comfortable environment,” Juan Soto remarked, expressing his fondness for Yankee Stadium and the batter’s box. He appreciates the quality pitches thrown in the strike zone, allowing him to swing with confidence. His focus remains on making solid contact rather than chasing home runs. “I try to hit line drives up the middle,” he clarified, highlighting his approach of letting the results speak for themselves.

Beyond the on-field experience, playing in New York offers a personal connection for Juan Soto. He has family, including uncles and friends from the Dominican Republic, residing in the city. This adds a special layer to his experience, allowing him to connect with loved ones while playing. Furthermore, the large Dominican community in The Bronx creates a sense of familiarity and excitement.

The energy of Yankee Stadium isn’t lost on Juan Soto. He expressed his appreciation for the positive atmosphere and the electricity generated by the fans. Looking forward to experiencing the crowd as a home player, Juan Soto anticipates an amazing atmosphere fueled by the passionate support of the Yankee faithful. Having witnessed the energy as an opponent, he readily acknowledges the thrill of being cheered on by the home crowd. This time around, he’ll be the one basking in the cheers, eager to see how the fans’ support can elevate the game to new heights.

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