Juan Soto’s defensive deficit a burning question for Yankees

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Yankees enthusiasts are well-versed in Juan Soto‘s offensive prowess. Over six seasons, his impressive .284/.421/.524 slash line and a stellar 157 OPS+ stand as some of the best for a 24-year-old with 3,000 plate appearances. However, his defensive performance has not been as remarkable.

Nonetheless, there is optimism for improvement, as per insights from an anonymous coach quoted by ESPN’s Buster Olney. The coach believes that Juan Soto’s defensive challenges, evident in his 45th rank in outs above average (-9) and 40th rank in defensive runs saved (-6) in 2023, are not permanent.

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RkPlayerHROPS+PAFromToAgeGPAABRH1B2B3BHRRBISBCSBBSOBAOBPSLGOPSOPS+TBGIDPHBPSHSFIBBPosTeam
9Juan Soto16015733752018202319-24779337527045277684491481116048350196405770.2840.4210.5240.9461571418741221665*79DHSDP,WSN

A resolution is in sight for Juan Soto

The suggested solution revolves around refining Juan Soto’s footwork. The coach proposes adopting a more athletic outfield stance, with feet oriented toward center field and positioned slightly closer to the foul line. This adjustment, they contend, could offer Soto a more direct route to balls hit in the gaps, enhancing his initial reactions.

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This adjustment holds significance for Juan Soto, who is likely to cover right field at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees acquired him, along with outfielder Trent Grisham, from the Padres in exchange for Drew Thorpe, Jhony Brito, Kyle Higashioka, Michael King, and Randy Vásquez. Consequently, Juan Soto will be contending with the notorious short porch (314 feet to the right), adding extra emphasis on his fielding capabilities. A return to his 2019 form, when he recorded eight outs above average and two defensive runs saved with the Nationals, could greatly benefit the Bronx Bombers.

Implementing these changes will undoubtedly pose challenges. Spring training is poised to be Juan Soto’s testing ground, providing an opportunity to showcase his ability to transform defensive weaknesses into strengths. Yankees fans and coaching staff alike will be observant, anticipating that the slugger renowned for his powerful bat can infuse some gold-glove prowess into his skill set.

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