Will Juan Soto or Gleyber Torres Be the More Valuable Fantasy Baseball Asset in 2018?
This season has seen an infusion of super-young talent in the Majors by a few teams that have shown no fear when it comes to calling up prospects at a very young age.
You have to be really, really good to be playing in the Majors before your 22nd birthday, and in the case of Washington Nationals outfielder Juan Soto and New York Yankees second baseman Gleyber Torres, that is most definitely the case.
These two young studs are squaring off in a three-game series this week in the Bronx that not only offers a glimpse at a potential World Series match-up, but offers a glimpse of the future, too.
With Gleyber Torres (21 years 182 days) & Juan Soto (19 y 231 d) both hitting home runs, @StatsBySTATS hooked us up with the other times that opposing players that young both homered in the same game pic.twitter.com/rF1rCgQazy
â€” James Smyth (@JamesSmyth621) June 14, 2018
Both Soto and Torres went yard for their respective clubs last night, and both look like guys who could be fantasy superstars in their career. But for the rest of this season, who is the better fantasy option?
The Case for Soto
In the second game of their series against the Bronx Bombers, the Nats' 19-year-old outfielder decided it was a good time to announce his presence on the national stage.
Hello, us again.
Just popping in to remind you that Juan Soto is 19. pic.twitter.com/ZAEUxh7hss
â€” Washington Nationals (@Nationals) June 14, 2018
Soto went yard twice in Yankee Stadium last night, his 4th and 5th homers of the season. In 76 plate appearances, he has an OPS of 1.088 and is hitting .344/.447/.641 since being called up from Double-A a few weeks ago.
Juan Soto now with 2 HR tonight
- He's the youngest player with a multi-HR game since Andruw Jones on Aug. 22, 1996
- He's the 1st teenager with a multi-HR game *against the Yankees* since Ken Griffey Jr. on May 30, 1989 pic.twitter.com/SiX0UuKBuY
â€” ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 14, 2018
What's incredible is Soto started the season in Low-A before rocketing his way to the big, playing 15 games in High-A and only 8 games in Double-A and then jumping to the bigs.
It's clear he's advanced for his age. He has a walk rate of 15.8%, higher than his strikeout rate of 14.5%. That's ridiculous for a 19-year-old. He also has an isolated power of .297 and a wOBA of .457, and against left-handed pitching, he owns an OPS of 1.407. (He hits lefty.)
He's simply defying all the rules one has when thinking about young baseball players.
Juan Soto blasted 2 HR in the Nationals win over the Yankees Wednesday night
Soto became the youngest with a multi-HR game since Andruw Jones in 1996 pic.twitter.com/Dsc6YOIiqI
â€” ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 14, 2018
Soto was called up when Howie Kendrick ruptured his Achilles about a month ago, and in a mere 76 plate appearances, he has tallied 1.0 fWAR so far. He appears to have locked down a permanent spot in the outfield, too, as he's been a regular even with Adam Eaton back healthy, though Eaton only recently returned. It's been Michael Taylor who has gotten bumped into a reserve role.
The Case for Torres
Soto is getting all the love today following his two-dinger game last night, but Torres went yard, too.
Gleyber Torres' 12th home run of the season was a NO DOUBTER.#YANKSonYES live stream: https://t.co/TGkMfRe1jT pic.twitter.com/IcOY46HotM
â€” YES Network (@YESNetwork) June 14, 2018
The 21-year-old infielder hit his 12th dinger of the season, a no-doubter to left-center that once again showed off his dynamic talent. Acquired from the Chicago Cubs in the Aroldis Chapman deal two years ago, Torres is also off to a fast start, with a .919 OPS that trails only Soto's clip among players under 22.
Since April 22, when Gleyber Torres made his @MLB debut, he leads all rookies with 12 homers and 30 RBIs.
â€” Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) June 14, 2018
He's hitting .296/.353/.566 with a wOBA of .388 in just 168 plate appearances, and he has an fWAR of 1.1.
Among MLB second basemen with at least 160 plate appearances, Torres' ranks second in wOBA (trailing only noted slugger Scooter Gennett), is tied for third in homers, and is first in both isolated power (.270) and slugging (.566).
On a team that hits the cover off the ball on a regular basis, his .388 wOBA is second-best on the Yankees, 44 percentage points better than Giancarlo Stanton's.
As with all young players, slumps will come at some point, and given the situations around them, Torres may be the one most likely to keep an everyday job once said slumps his since Washington has a crowded outfield.
Our projections for Soto the rest of the season show him losing some playing time with Eaton and Taylor vying for starts here and there, and we have him hitting .283 with an OPS of .827, 5 homers, 20 RBIs and 20 runs scored in 158 plate appearances. Our projections for Torres show him getting another 241 plate appearances and hitting .269 with a .782 OPS, 9 dingers, 32 RBI and 32 runs scored. Projection models are naturally conservative, so when outliers like Soto and Torres come along -- young players who are playing this well -- most projections will sell them short. Steamer projections aren't too far off from our numbers, although Steamer is more bullish on both.
In a crowded Nats outfield, Soto could see a reduction in playing time once he's not red-hot, maybe sitting against lefties in favor of Taylor. With that said, Washington won't mess with a good thing, so if Soto keeps producing at this level, he'll be in there each day.
But Torres definitely has the clearer path to a rest-of-season every-day role. That's enough to give him a edge in counting stats, making him the better rookie to own in fantasy between these two headline-grabbing stars.