Juan Soto narrowly favored to win NL MVP in 2022
Washington Nationals right fielder Juan Soto is rapidly becoming baseball’s most feared hitter, and the 23-year-old Dominican native is just getting started.
After finishing fifth in the 2020 NL MVP voting, Soto put up an MVP-caliber season in 2021, but came in second in the voting to Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Bryce Harper. Now Soto is the +370 favorite to break through for his first MVP award in 2022, but is he the best bet on the board? Let’s do some digging and find out.
National League MVP 2022
Fri, September 30 2022, 10:00 PM
Tatís Jr., Fernando
Acuna Jr, Ronald
The case for Soto
Soto came into the league as a highly-touted prospect, and even finished second in the NL Rookie of the Year race in 2018. But his breakthrough season came in the shortened 2020 campaign, where he led the NL in batting average (.351), and all of baseball in both OPS (1.185) and intentional walks (12). However, after missing the start of the season due to a COVID protocol situation, Soto somehow fell out of the MVP discussion.
In 2021, Soto paced the game in OBP (.465) and intentional walks (23) while recording 29 homers and 95 RBI for a languishing Nationals squad. He led the NL in positional player WAR, made his first All-Star Game appearance, and won his second straight Silver Slugger Award last season, but it all failed to put him over the top.
However, it’s easy to see a path to a 2022 MVP Award for Soto. If he continues to produce at this level, and the inconsistent Harper regresses after last year’s brilliant run, Soto could certainly win this honor.
The case against Soto
He doesn’t have a major injury history, but all it takes it one freak occurrence to cost Soto a month of the season, and take him out of the MVP race. And at these preseason odds, is he worth the risk?
Soto also has plenty of competition in the wide-open senior circuit. Harper is frequently an MVP candidate, and Trea Turner arguably did enough last year to warrant some first-place votes. The San Diego Padres’ Fernando Tatis Jr. has yet to show what he can do in a full season as well, and he led the NL in homers (42) in only 130 games in 2021.
Don’t overlook Austin Riley
Austin Riley was not a household name when last year’s playoffs began, but his contributions to the Atlanta Braves’ World Series run certainly helped change that.
Riley finished seventh in the MVP race in his first full season in the majors, and took home the Silver Slugger Award for third base (where he also plays some strong defense) after batting .303 with 33 homers and 107 RBI.
He appears to be a bargain at +2500 to win NL MVP.