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Prospect of the Day: Steven Souza, OF, Washington Nationals

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Steven Souza
Steven Souza
Scott Cunningham, Getty Images

Washington Nationals outfield prospect Steve Souza is on a tear at Triple-A Syracuse. He went 3-for-4 last night for the Chiefs, following up a 2-for-5 (with a home run) performance on June 22nd, and a 3-for-6 (with five RBI) outing on the 21st. He's been devastating this month, hitting .382/.467/.618 in June.

Hell, he's been devastating all year as his complete season line of .363/.456/.567 shows. In addition to the power and OBP, he's got a nice BB/K ratio (33/43 in 237 plate appearances) and has stolen 12 bases in 17 attempts. He's also playing well defensively in both center and right field according to league observers.

Souza leads the International League in OPS by 78 points over his nearest competitor (Gregory Polanco). He leads in SLG, OBP, and batting average. He has a juicy wRC+ of 188. He's been devastating against both left-handed (.995 OPS) and right-handed pitchers (1.033 OPS), both on the road (1.071) and at home (.969). Keep in mind that this is in the International League, a relatively neutral environment, not the high-offense Pacific Coast League.

Really the only thing that hasn't gone well was Souza's very brief big league trial, where he went just 1-for-8 with three strikeouts over eight games, hardly a fair test of his skills.

So who is this dude?

Souza was a third round pick in 2007 from high school in Everett, Washington. Scouts have always loved his tools: he's very strong, with at least 60 power. He also has above-average speed and a strong throwing arm. His progress through the minors was slowed by injuries, trouble with his swing, a failed attempt to play third base, inadequate strike zone judgment, a PED suspension in 2010, and persistent questions from evaluators about his makeup.

However, he seemed to get his life in some measure of order in 2012 and has been blasting the ball ever since, posting a .297/.366/.572 line in A-ball in '12, a 161 wRC+ (slash line .300/.396/.557 with 20 steals) in Double-A in 2013, and the aforementioned destruction of Triple-A this year. His approach at the plate has improved greatly compared to earlier in his career, and the tools have always been there.

At age 25 he isn't young as prospects go, but he's not ancient either and is still two years younger than the average denizen of the International League. I don't know how the Nationals intend to use him, but they stuck with him through some difficult times due to his potential and it looks like that potential is now being realized.

If he continues his present path, Souza will be of interest both to Nationals fans and fantasy owners due to his power/speed potential.