Washington Nationals’ Juan Soto edges Seattle Mariners rookie Julio Rodriguez to win 2022 Home Run Derby

LOS ANGELES — Juan Soto won $1 million on Monday with a swing worth a lot more.

Soto shrugged off trade rumors that threatened to tarnish his All-Star week, beating a legend and holding off a rookie to win the Home Run Derby and associated grand prize in front of a sold-out crowd at Dodger Stadium.

After Soto recently turned down a 15-year, $440 million contract extension from the Washington Nationals, Soto arrived in Los Angeles early Monday morning with his future in doubt before the Aug. 2 trade deadline. He came out undisturbed. When asked before the derby whether he would win it, he replied in typical Soto fashion: “Probably.” And on that prediction he prevailed, defeating Albert Pujols in the semifinals and Julio Rodriguez in the final.

“I’m a lone survivor,” Soto said. “I’ve been through all of these things, and I’m still standing here and standing with my chin up all the time. And that shows you that I can go through anything.”

In this case, it all included a day in which he answered questions he can’t possibly answer, including whether the Nationals will trade him before the Aug. 2 deadline or where he might end up. Instead, Soto worried about his powerful left swing, firing balls in every field and finishing the final with 19 home runs against the 18 of his compatriot Rodríguez of the Dominican Republic.

At 23 years and 266 days, Soto became the second youngest Derby champion – just a day older than 1993 winner Juan Gonzalez.

Until the finale, The Derby had been the last episode of The J-Rod Show. Rodriguez, the Seattle Mariners’ precocious 21-year-old outfielder, raided the field Monday night, edging out the two-time defending champion and hitting 81 homers.

Rodriguez, the night’s first hitter, led the way with 32 homers in his first-round matchup against Texas Rangers’ Corey Seager. Then came Pete Alonso, the New York Mets hitter who won the last two contests in 2019 and 2021 but only put up 23 home runs in the semifinals, well short of Rodriguez’s 31.

Then came his matchup with Soto, who Rodriguez said he used to play Call of Duty games against. Rodriguez was better at COD. At least on Monday, Soto was superior to HRD.

“What did I show the fans?” said Rodriguez. “I appreciate who I am. You know a little bit now.”

Rodriguez, who earned the MLB minimum wage of $700,000 this year, received a $500,000 bonus for finishing runner-up.

Soto was there from the start, beating Cleveland Guardians third baseman Jose Ramirez in the first round and the St. Louis Cardinals’ magnificent Pujols in the semifinals. Pujols, 42, is in his final season – and upset Philadelphia’s No. 1 Kyle Schwarber in the first round by beating him in overtime. He couldn’t match Soto, whose 482-foot first-round home run was the longest of the night.

“I wasn’t sure if I should hit him or let him hit him, but just the respect — I respect him a lot,” Soto said. “Even if I beat him at the end of the day, it’s just a competition. He knows how proud I am of him and how much talent he brings to all the generations and advice he gives us.”

Whatever Soto’s future, wherever he ends up, whether he’s relocated before or after that deadline, he said he would certainly leave this All-Star week.

“I will forever be a home run derby champion,” he said.

https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/34265038/washington-nationals-juan-soto-tops-seattle-mariners-julio-rodriguez-final-round-win-2022-home-run-derby Washington Nationals’ Juan Soto edges Seattle Mariners rookie Julio Rodriguez to win 2022 Home Run Derby

Emma Bowman

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