September 23, 2017

Washington Nationals 2014 Top 25 Prospects: No. 5 Steven Souza

In this series, District Sports Page has provide detailed scouting reports on our list of Top 25 Washington Nationals prospects. You can find our overview with the entire list here. We will now move into even further detailed reports for our Top 10.

Here’s our scouting reports on prospects Nos. 21-15, prospects Nos. 16-20 and Nos. 11-16.

And so far in the Top 10:

No. 10 Eury Perez
No. 9 Jake Johansen
No. 8 Sammy Solis
No. 7 Michael Taylor
No. 6 Zach Walters

Now without further ado, here is prospect No. 5, outfielder Steven Souza.

5. Steven Souza
Bats: Right, Throws: Right
Height: 6′ 3″, Weight: 225 lb.
Born: April 24, 1989 in Everett, Washington, US (Age 24)
Draft: Third Round, 2007

Hitting Ability Raw Power Power Frequency Plate Discipline Speed Baserunning Fielding Range Arm Strength Arm Accuracy O.F.P.
45/50 65/65 55/65 55/55 55/55 50/55 40/45 55/55 65/65 40/45 MLB Starter

About to turn 25, Souza is putting it together later than most top prospects. When the Nationals took him with the 100th overall pick back in 2007, they knew they were investing in a raw, player development project. A third baseman at the time, Souza offered rare potential for a third-round pick. He displayed vicious bat speed in pre-draft tryouts, a cannon arm, plus foot speed for a big kid, and his powerful, athletic frame certainly looked like it fit the bill for a power-hitting big leaguer corner infielder. But the former two-way high school star struggled to put it together on the field during his first few seasons in the pros. He hit just .191 with a .630 OPS in the Rookie Leagues and in A-Ball, and he made 36 errors through 90 games at third base during his first two seasons.

In 2010, Souza started showing more promise. He showed up to spring camp with a much stronger, leaner musculature and he started hitting with power right out of the gate. Just when he started to draw some positive attention though, he went down with a broken thumb. To add insult to injury, he was slapped with a fifty-game PED suspension that summer. Considering how much he’d struggled already in pro ball, the adversity looked like it might knock Souza’s baseball career out for the count. But the Nationals stuck with him and he responded well to the challenge. He put in the grit and work, and showed up in spring 2011 ready to start putting his athletic gifts to their best use.

Souza’s strong arm and plus athleticism got him a long look on the dirt, but after toiling to improve his hands and quickness for three years, the organization’s brass decided to have him move to an outfield corner and focus on developing his potentially special bat. Since he moved to the outfield grass in 2011, he’s been a far better hitter and overall player. At the plate with the Hagerstown Suns in 2011, Souza hit .290/.346/.576 and mashed 17 homers in his first 70 games. He was named SAL Player of the Week for July 2-8, promptly earning a promotion right after that. He finished out the year raking in the Carolina League, and ended up leading the Potomac Nationals in batting average (.319), on-base percentage (.421) and slugging (.560).

Last year, Souza was challenged with a promotion to double-A Harrisburg, a tough environment on right-handed hitters, and he responded better than the organization could have ever hoped. While overcoming nagging oblique strains, he mashed 15 home runs and 23 doubles in just 273 at bats en route to a hulking .256 isolated power. He rounded out his thunderous power numbers with a .300 average and .396 on-base percentage, while sprinkling in 20 stolen bases and solid right field defense to top his performance off.

Souza is strikingly similar to Michael Cuddyer for his size, right-handed power, approach  and a package that sports surplus athleticism but also a glove that has moved him off the dirt for good. Similarities abound. Souza’s powerful frame is laden with muscle, and he generates plus to plus-plus power to all fields. He has a quiet, balanced set-up, working the count and looking-off tough balls low and away. He’s a patient, poised hitter, and he doesn’t back off when he’s behind in the count.

Souza has huge raw power, showing off serious distance in batting practice and in games. When he gets his pitch, he uses his stone-solid trunk and ideal balance to generate scary bat-speed and pound the ball. He’s equally effective at hitting lefties and righties, and though he’ll swing and miss some, he can handle breaking pitches. The only knock on his power is that he’s more of a pure strength slugger right now, and could stand to add some more loft/back-spin to his swing. He also tends to choke up and take the ball to the opposite field instead of using a more leveraged swing.

Over time Souza has developed into a hitter that’s comfortable using the center of the field and the gaps rather than solely going after inside pitches and trying to muscle everything to his pull side. That’s an asset when it comes to competing against craftier veteran pitchers that will stay away from power hitters and nag them with off-speed pitches on the outside edge. He launches rockets to the opposite field on soft stuff low-and-away, and when he’s picking up the opposing pitcher well, there’s few fastballs he can’t get inside and send out of the park with big pull power. On the down side, his hard, aggressive cut and the hand-drop he employs as a timing mechanism will continue to lead to plenty of strikeouts–and may keep him from ever developing plus contact skills. But like Cuddyer, Souza has the tools to grow into well-rounded batting numbers in the big leagues, demonstrating enough hitting chops to bat .270+ with above-average on-base skills, 20-30 home-run power and high of extra-base hit totals.

About Ryan Kelley

Ryan Kelley is a Contributor to District Sports Page. He’s an economist by day and an aspiring journalist living in the D.C. area. Native to Connecticut, he has lived in Washington since graduating from The George Washington University and has covered Minor League Baseball and Team USA. He is founder of BaseballNewsHound.com, and specializes in prospects playing in leagues on the East Coast and in the Mid-Atlantic region. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @BBNewsHound.

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