Marcus Stroman calls Juan Soto ‘best hitter I’ve ever faced’; Soto may bat before Aaron Judge, says Aaron Boone

Juan Soto is one of a kind, according to new Yankees teammate Marcus Stroman.

Stroman, a nine-year MLB veteran, says the 25-year-old Soto stands out among all of the hitters he’s pitched against.

“He’s incredible,” Stroman said Thursday during a Zoom call introducing him as a Yankee. “I’ve faced some good hitters, man, but I always tell everyone Soto’s the best hitter I’ve ever faced.”

“His knowledge of the strike zone is second to none,” the right-hander continued. “He probably knows a ball or strike better than the umpire does, and then his ability to just fire on pitches in the zone, his pitch recognition, he’s just different, man. He’s different.”

Soto — a four-time Silver Slugger, three-time MLB walks leader and the 2020 NL batting champion — boasts a .300 batting average, .500 on-base percentage, two home runs and eight walks in 28 career plate appearances against Stroman.

The lefty-swinging Soto, whom the Yankees acquired last month in a blockbuster trade with the Padres, joins a lineup also headlined by Aaron Judge, whom Stroman similarly described as one of Major League Baseball’s best bats.

“I think [Soto] and Judge are arguably one, two, top-three, four, five guys in baseball, depending on how you want to cut it,” said Stroman, who has pitched for the Blue Jays, Mets and Cubs.

“I’m thankful to be Judge’s teammate,” he continued. “If I take Judge’s numbers out against my numbers in my career, I’d probably have a lot closer to a 3.00 ERA, to be honest with you, so it’s good to have him on my side.”

Stroman, whose career ERA is 3.65, had even less success in his career against Judge than he did versus Soto. The righty-hitting Judge owns a .476 batting average and eight home runs in 50 plate appearances against Stroman.

The 32-year-old Stroman and Soto, who were both All-Stars last season, mark the Yankees’ biggest additions during a busy offseason that also saw them add outfielder Alex Verdugo in a rare trade with the rival Red Sox.


Yankees manager Aaron Boone is already thinking about the 2024 batting order — and how Judge and Soto stack up.

Boone currently envisions Soto, whose .421 career on-base percentage ranks 19th in MLB history, hitting in front of Judge, who is a season removed from an AL-record 62 home runs.

“Right now, Juan in the two-hole and Judgey third, but we’ll just see,” Boone told former Yankees third baseman Todd Frazier on Friday’s episode of the “Foul Territory” podcast.

That deployment would be notable, considering Judge primarily hit second over his first seven full seasons with the Yankees. Soto, meanwhile, expressed a greater comfort level batting in the middle of the order with San Diego last season, according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal.

Last month, Soto voiced his willingness to hit anywhere in the Yankees lineup.

“Whatever spot in the lineup, whatever position they want me to play, I’m gonna be right there for them,” Soto said during his introductory Zoom call. “I’m open to do it anytime.”

Boone on Friday also spoke about the Yankees’ potential leadoff hitters, noting that DJ LeMahieu, a two-time batting champion, hit .273 in the second half of 2023 after posting a .220 mark before the All-Star break.

“We’ll see how the leadoff spot shakes out,” Boone said. “I really feel excited about the way DJ finished the season last year and the winter that he’s had. He’s in Tampa already, getting rolling. I’m hopeful that he gets back to being the player he was in the second half where he’s getting on base a ton and can solve that leadoff spot for us.”

Verdugo and Gleyber Torres are also options atop the order, Boone said.


The Yankees watched the Astros bolster their bullpen Friday, as Houston agreed to a five-year, $95 million deal with superstar closer Josh Hader, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan.

Hader, a three-time NL Reliever of the Year, is fresh off another dominant season in which he recorded a 1.28 ERA and 85 strikeouts in 56.1 innings with the Padres.

Speculation swirled that the Yankees could pivot to the left-handed Hader if they failed to add a top-tier starting pitcher this offseason.

Instead, he goes to the Astros, who eliminated the Yankees from four postseasons between 2015 and 2022. The Astros already employ a multi-time All-Star closer in Ryan Pressly, though his 3.58 ERA last season was his worst since 2017.

In terms of total dollars, Hader’s deal did not match the record-setting $102 million contract the Mets gave closer Edwin Diaz last offseason. As Passan notes, however, Hader’s contract doesn’t have any deferrals, while Diaz’s does, and is therefore worth more in terms of present-day value.


Friday saw the Yankees make multiple minor moves, including claiming utilityman Diego Castillo off waivers from the Mets.

Castillo, who originally signed with the Yankees in 2014 as an international free agent, was part of their 2021 trade with the Pirates that brought back closer Clay Holmes. The 26-year-old Castillo has batted .205 with 11 home runs over 97 MLB games with the Pirates and Diamondbacks.

In a corresponding move, the Yankees designated infielder Jeter Downs for assignment to clear a spot on the 40-man roster. The Yankees had claimed Downs, who is named after former Yankees captain Derek Jeter, off waivers from the Nationals last month.

The Yankees also announced their signing of Luke Weaver to an MLB contract. Weaver, 30, pitched to a 3.38 ERA over three starts with the Yankees last year in a late-season audition. To make room, they designated speedy outfielder Bubba Thompson for assignment. The Yankees had claimed Thompson off waivers from Cincinnati two weeks ago.