- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 10, 2020

Juan Soto earned a place alongside some of baseball’s biggest names Wednesday night, when the Washington Nationals outfielder made the All-MLB First Team.

In the presentation on MLB Network, Soto received first-team recognition in the outfield with Angels star Mike Trout and Dodgers standout Mookie Betts. Soto compiled an immense campaign during the shortened 2020 season, winning the National League batting title with a .351 batting average. The 22-year-old led the league with a 1.185 on-base plus slugging percentage, too.

“I really focus more to hit for average,” Soto said on MLB Network. “Just try to put the ball in play as much as I can. And I’ve worked really hard in the offseason for my power, so I know the power’s going to be there. I just try to put the ball in play and try to help my team.”

Soto said he has been working since 2019 to improve his plate vision and identifying off-speed pitches. He walked 41 times — fourth most in the National League — and pitchers intentionally walked him an NL-leading 12 times. He also blasted 13 home runs, drove in 37 runners and struck out just 28 times in 47 games.

Those marks made Soto a Silver Slugger, and the outfielder finished fifth in MVP voting.

When MLB Network’s Harold Reynolds asked Soto about the room Soto sat in during the interview — filled with bats and jerseys — Soto pointed out a few of his favorite. There’s a World Series jersey signed by all his teammates, a Ronald Acuna Jr. jersey, and a Miguel Cabrera jersey.

Soto is especially fond of that Cabrera jersey, he said, because Cabrera won the Triple Crown in 2012. Reynolds asked Soto if he could win a Triple Crown one day.

“Never know, maybe,” Soto said with a laugh. “I hope so. I’m going to keep grinding, man.”

Last year, during the first All-MLB honor event, Soto earned a place on the second team. If there had been an All-Star game this summer, Soto and shortstop Trea Turner were likely shoo-ins. Turner finished as an All-MLB finalist at the shortstop positive, hitting .335 to go along with 31 extra-bag hits.

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