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HOUSTON, TEXAS - MARCH 31: Alex Verdugo #24 of the New York Yankees, Aaron Judge #99, and Juan Soto #22 celebrate after defeating the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on March 31, 2024 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

Juan Soto already making an impact

With four games in the books, Juan Soto’s presence on the New York Yankees is already being felt. From a game-saving throw to a game-winning hit, Soto’s fingerprints are all over the Yankees sweep of the Houston Astros. While the trade package seemed a bit steep, so far, Soto has been well worth the cost.

Impact on the lineup

Watching Soto in the No. 2 spot flashed memories of Derek Jeter from the late 1990s and early 2000s. Take yesterday as an example. In the top of the fifth inning, Gleyber Torres stood at first while Soto stepped up to the plate. After working a 3-1 count, a J.P. France fastball tailed over the plate, and Soto poked a single to the opposite field, sending Torres to third. Next, Aaron Judge hit a sacrifice fly, stretching the Yankees lead.

Flash back to the late 1990s, and you can find countless examples of Jeter hitting a single and sending Chuck Knoblauch racing into scoring position, waiting to be driven home by Paul O’Neill or Bernie Williams.

Later in the ninth, Torres led off second while Soto worked a full count while laying off a few difficult pitches. This time, it was all-star closer Josh Hader who left a pitch out over the plate. Soto poked the ball the opposite way once again. Again, not trying to do too much. Instead understanding the situation and hitting the ball to an open area of the field.

Always on base

What makes Soto so appealing to the Yankees is his ability to combine power with getting on base. In 20 plate appearances, Soto reached 12, while frequently working deep into counts. His ability to make pitchers work felt similar to the approaches of Jorge Posada and Williams.

While Judge had a bit of a slow start to the season, once he is clicking, he and Soto should form a lethal duo at the top of the Yankees lineup. If the team can get some consistency at the leadoff position from Torres or DJ LeMahieu the first inning could turn into a nightmare for opposing pitchers.

No situation is too big

Having entered the Majors as a teenager, Soto is in a unique situation where he is both young and a seasoned vet. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that he is younger than Adley Rutschman, Oneill Cruz, and Austin Riley. With a World Series championship already under his belt, Soto has proven that he can succeed in the big moments.

On Opening Day, it was Soto’s defense, a weaker area of his game, that helped seal the Yankees’ win, when he threw out the game-tying run in the bottom of the ninth.

Against an Astros bullpen that was seen as one of the best in baseball, Soto showed his flair for the dramatics. In Game 2, Soto gave the Yankees the lead with an RBI with a bases-loaded walk. It was Soto’s solo home run that put the Yankees ahead in Game 3 before his heroics in the series finale.

Looking forward

While it is still very, very early in the season, this Yankees team already feels a bit different. In the past few years, coming back against the Astros in three consecutive games seemed impossible. Now, when Soto stepped up to the plate in the 9th inning yesterday, it felt more likely than not that the Yankees were going to go home with the sweep.

Seeing him celebrating with Judge in shallow center field after Alex Verdugo’s game-sealing catch hopefully officially marked the beginning of a new era for Yankees baseball.