Do you have certain players you target during the draft season but never seem to actually acquire? Steven Souza, Jr. was one such player for me heading into 2015. His blend of power and speed was enticing, but I somehow neglected to draft him in any of my season-long leagues. After his impressive start to the season, I am beginning to wonder if this was a grave mistake.
The positives with Souza are obvious. He hits for power and runs very well. He is on a team that needs his bat, so playing time isn't an issue. He's been hitting second in the batting order--a productive position in real and in fake life. He also punishes left-handed pitching, so there's no worry for a platoon. He is talented enough to join the 20/20 club this season if he remains healthy. He is already well on his way with 2 home runs and 3 stolen bases in only 10 games this season. His minor league record suggests that a 20/20 season is a safe floor. Souza managed 15 home runs and 20 stolen bases in 77 games of AA ball in 2013. He followed that up in 2014 with an 18/26 effort in only 96 games for AAA Syracuse. Over the course of a full 162-game season, the man's counting stats could be bonkers.
Now for the bad. Souza strikes out like Adam Dunn. Like Adam Dunn, blindfolded. Seriously, Dunn struck out over 30 percent of the time in each of his last five major league seasons. His career strikeout rate was 28.6 percent. In his brief stint with Washington in 2014, Souza struck out 7 times in 26 plate appearances, or 26.9 percent of the time. So far in 2015 he has 15 strikeouts in 38 plate appearances--good for a 39.5 percent strikeout rate. That is absolutely terrible. Souza is going to have to trim that number in a big way if he wants to stay put atop the Rays' batting order. Luckily, his minor league track record suggests he'll land in the 23 to 25 percent range. That would be tolerable for fake purposes if he's smacking 20 home runs and stealing 20 bags.
One glimmer of hope with Souza--and a piece that may help keep him atop the lineup--is his ability to draw a walk. Souza is at 15.8 percent so far this season, a very good mark that is seriously buoying his on-base percentage (OBP) which sits at .368 thus far. In his final two minor league seasons, Souza had walk percentages of 12.7 and 12.8 percent, respectively. So he's walking a little more this year as a big leaguer than he did in the minors. Because of this ability to draw walks, Souza is more valuable to those who use OBP as a category instead of batting average. I'd be willing to use him as my second outfielder in such a league, but would love him as my third. In a league with batting average as as category, I'd tolerate him as my third outfielder but prefer him as my fourth. Luckily for those of you who own him, you probably didn't pay anywhere near that price to obtain his services.
In summation: Because Souza is prone to the strikeout, he is prone to being a drain on your batting average. There is hope that he can adjust to the bigs and obtain respectability in this area, but his first full season will likely be up and down. Landing anywhere between .240 and .270 seems plausible, but I'll stay conservative and put .255 as my own estimate. Overall I'd say 85-20-75-35-.255. That means he should land squarely among the Top 30 outfielders--a solid OF3 type in my general opinion. The strikeouts sure are scary, but in this case you have to hope he reverts to minor league norms because the power/speed combination is just too good to pass up.