Is Juan Soto the savior the Yankees have been waiting for or just overhyped?

Yankees' Juan Soto reacts after hitting two homers against the White Sox on May 18, 2024, at Yankee Stadium.
John Allen
Sunday May 19, 2024

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An unfamiliar sight graced Yankee Stadium last week as the team’s newest superstar, Juan Soto, knelt behind second base during batting practice. He was there to frame throws from the outfield wall, courtesy of Jahmai Jones, while Alex Verdugo crouched behind Juan Soto like an umpire. The trio celebrated each perfectly framed throw with enthusiastic strike calls, and when Jones leaped to pull a ball back over the wall, they erupted in joyous roars, their arms raised high.

Such frivolity has been a rare occurrence in this field in recent years, especially for the home team. Since their last World Series title in 2009, the Yankees have been mired in a cycle of furrowed brows and gritted teeth, despite making six consecutive postseason appearances from 2017 to 2022. The pressure of expectations, traditions, contracts, and trades weighed heavily on them, and their unthinkable fourth-place finish in the AL East last year only added to the burden. Injuries were obstacles to navigate, and never excuses to hide behind. Amidst all this, one thing was notably absent: fun.

However, with the Houston Astros in the opposing dugout on Opening Day, something felt different. The Yankees’ dominant performance in the first two games, leaving them 11 games over .500, was a straightforward shift. The Astros, long the nemesis of this New York generation, haven’t struggled like this in a decade, making the Yankees’ superiority all the more striking.

Juan Soto celebrates after hitting a home run in the seventh inning of the Yankees vs. Tigers game at Yankee Stadium on May 5, 2024.
AP

Yet, the more significant difference was less tangible – a sense that this lineup had finally developed an immunity to the pressure and streakiness that had undone them in the past. This feeling, it’s no exaggeration to say, is tied directly to the presence of Juan Soto.

Juan Soto a big boost to the Yankees

Back to Saturday, Juan Soto broke out of a significant slump with a commanding performance against the Chicago White Sox. The 24-year-old phenom went 4-for-4 with two towering solo home runs, an RBI single, and a walk, leading the Yankees to a dominant 6-1 victory at Yankee Stadium.

Soto wasted no time asserting his presence, smashing a 417-foot blast in the first inning to tie the game, followed by an RBI single in the second. He then crushed a 437-foot shot in the fifth, extending the Yankees’ lead to 6-1. This impressive multi-homer game, his first with the Yankees and 18th of his career, highlighted his immense power-hitting abilities.

With this two-homer outburst, Juan Soto increased his season total to 11 home runs, joining teammates Aaron Judge (12) and Giancarlo Stanton (11) as the third Yankee slugger in double digits. This resounding performance not only snapped Juan Soto out of an 8-game slump where he recorded just 4 hits in 31 at-bats but also showcased the potency of the Yankees’ formidable offensive lineup.

In a recent interview, Yankees Manager Aaron Boone praised Juan Soto’s unwavering dedication at the plate, noting that he personifies the team’s aspirations. Boone suggested that Juan Soto’s presence has subtly influenced the Yankees’ offensive approach, encouraging them to adopt a similar mindset of making every at-bat count.

Despite being only 25, Juan Soto’s exceptional talent prompted the Yankees to acquire him this offseason, recognizing his potential to elevate the entire offense single-handedly. Previously, the Padres had also traded for Juan Soto in 2022, hoping for a similar impact. While he performed well in San Diego, leading the MLB in walks, he didn’t quite transform the team as expected.

Reflecting on his performance, Juan Soto acknowledged that 2023 presented challenges, particularly with his swing. However, he has been working diligently with his coaches to rectify the issue and regain his optimal form.

Those who have followed Juan Soto since his days with the Nationals noticed a change in his demeanor beyond his swing. After turning down a substantial contract offer and leaving his baseball home, Juan Soto seemed to withdraw from the spotlight, smiling less, avoiding interviews, and working on his schedule, a marked contrast to his time in Washington.

Yankees' OF Juan Soto is making a thrilling defense.

In stark contrast to his demeanor during his time with the Nationals, Juan Soto’s behavior has undergone a noticeable shift since he departed from Washington. Gone are the days when he would enthusiastically support his former teammates, like Max Scherzer and Trea Turner, during their playoff appearances with the Dodgers. The once-exuberant Juan Soto, who effortlessly energized the crowd, seemed to have retreated into a more reserved persona.

Typically, a contract year can be a source of immense pressure for players, either motivating them to perform at their best or debilitating them under the weight of expectations. However, Juan Soto appears to be an exception to this norm. He exudes a sense of confidence and trust in his agent, Scott Boras, to handle the contract negotiations, allowing him to focus solely on his performance on the field.

Since donning the Yankees uniform, Juan Soto has seamlessly integrated into the team, displaying a genuine sense of belonging. From his impactful plays on Opening Day to his engaging interactions with fans at Yankee Stadium, Juan Soto has embraced his new environment with open arms. His presence has not only elevated his own game but has also had a transformative effect on the Yankees’ offense as a whole.

Soto’s impact on the Yankees’ offensive prowess is undeniable, but credit must also be given to Verdugo, whose remarkable transformation from a problematic player in Boston to a much-needed source of positivity in New York is a story worthy of discussion. However, Juan Soto’s presence has undoubtedly bolstered the team’s offensive confidence.

Juan Soto #22 of the New York Yankees celebrates with Aaron Judge #99 on a solo home run in the eighth inning against the Blue Jays on Wednesday.
NY POST

Soto’s addition to the lineup has alleviated the pressure on Aaron Judge, who previously seemed to be the sole player capable of generating offense when the team needed it most. Judge has stoically shouldered this burden, seemingly to dispel any notion that he was crumbling under the intense scrutiny.

Judge highlighted the benefits of having hitters like Juan Soto in the lineup, explaining that pitchers facing him are forced to employ a diverse array of pitches rather than relying solely on fastballs or a single pitch. As a hitter following Juan Soto in the lineup, Judge has the opportunity to observe and analyze every pitch thrown by the pitcher, enabling him to assess the quality of the pitcher’s arsenal and adjust his approach accordingly.

Juan Soto’s impact extends beyond his bat

He generously shares his hitting knowledge with his teammates. Oswaldo Cabrera, despite being the same age as Juan Soto, marvels at the wisdom the superstar imparts when discussing hitting, likening it to the insights of a 40-year-old veteran. However, in more casual settings, Cabrera finds that he can interact with Soto as he would with any other peer.

Furthermore, Juan Soto’s presence as a showman, genuinely passionate about the sport, sets him apart. He embraces the biggest moments without hesitation, exuding a confidence that is often lacking in many of his colleagues.

Gleyber Torres, one of Juan Soto’s close friends in the Yankees clubhouse, has witnessed firsthand the genuine enthusiasm and enjoyment he experiences while playing for the team. Torres noted that the supportive atmosphere and the crowd’s energy have played a significant role in Juan Soto’s excitement on the field, creating an environment conducive to his success.

Yankees' Juan Soto at the plate on April 26, 2024.
X-NYY

When asked if he had ever seen Juan Soto doubt himself, Torres couldn’t help but laugh at the notion. He expressed unwavering confidence in his abilities, a sentiment shared by Yankees assistant hitting coach Pat Roessler, who had previously worked with him in Washington.

Roessler, who was questioned about Juan Soto’s potential for success during spring training, affirmed his belief without hesitation. According to him, that the slugger thrives in high-energy environments and relishes being a key player, especially when the stakes are high. With every Yankees game carrying immense significance, Roessler knew that Juan Soto would excel in such a setting.

Despite his impressive résumé, the Yankees front office had carefully considered the trade, acknowledging that success in New York is never guaranteed. However, far from succumbing to the pressure, Juan Soto has risen to the occasion, rediscovering his brilliance and showcasing his ability to shine on the big stage.

Juan Soto himself expressed his deep desire to be present in every pivotal moment and game-changing play, acknowledging that he thrives under such circumstances. He described the unique adrenaline rush he experiences during these moments, feeling his body and focus heighten to unprecedented levels.

The unwavering support from the crowds has further contributed to Juan Soto’s overall well-being, leaving him feeling exceptional and experiencing a noticeable shift in his demeanor and sensations on the field.

The Yankees’ strong start, despite Judge’s slow April and Cole’s absence, is a testament to the team’s resilience. While Juan Soto and Verdugo’s future with the team remains uncertain beyond this season, the impact of his presence is undeniable. The anticipation he generates stands in stark contrast to the anxieties that plagued previous Yankees teams.

Boone described the atmosphere as a spectacle, with the crowd’s energy palpable. Each pitch of Juan Soto’s at-bat creates a theatrical suspense, building anticipation with every ball and strike. However, the Yankees are well aware that early-season optimism can give way to later frustrations, a pattern they have experienced in recent years.

While few players can single-handedly elevate a lineup, Juan Soto’s impact, when he’s at his best, is undeniable. For over a month, pitchers have struggled to contain his influence on the game, showcasing his exceptional abilities.

What do you think? Leave your comment below.

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One thought on “Is Juan Soto the savior the Yankees have been waiting for or just overhyped?

  1. Boone THE GOON IS A PATHETIC P.O.S. !!!. HE’S BEEN HUGGING AND KISSING THE YANKEE PLAYERS ASSES CAUSE They’re THE ONES WHO ARE DOING GOOD…NOT HIM ;!!.
    LETS FACE IT , HE SUCKS AS A MANAGER AND ALWAYS WILL !!!.
    CASHMAN AND LEVINE ARE A P.O.S. AS WELL !!!. IVE ONLY BEEN WATCHING CLIPS AND HIGHLIGHTS OF THE GAMES !!;. l REFUSE TO WATCH ANYMORE YANKEE GAME BECAUSE OF CASHMAN !!!..
    JUST REMEMBER HARDCORE YANKEE FANS…CASHMAN HAD FANS TROWN OUT OF YANKEE STADIUM LAST SEASON BECAUSE THE TRUTH HURTS !!!. I WILL NEVER GIVE IN AND I WILL NEVER WATCH ANOTHER GAME AS LONG AS SCUMBAG CASHMAN IS G.M.

    THE GREAT GEORGE STEINBRENNER WOULD’VE KICKED HIS USELESS ASS TO THE CURB !!!.

    ENOUGH SAID !!!!!!!.
    GOD BLESS AMERICA! !!!!!

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