Steven Souza in Tampa Bay

By on March 12, 2015

 

 Kevin Kiermaier (39) is congratulated by second baseman Ben Zobrist during the seventh inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Tropicana Field.  photo:  Kim Klement / USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Kiermaier (39) is congratulated by second baseman Ben Zobrist during the seventh inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Tropicana Field last year. (photo: Kim Klement / USA TODAY Sports)

One of the biggest surprises this winter was when the Rays dealt 25 year old Wil Myers to the San Diego Padres. Myers looked like the perfect Robin to Evan Longoria’s Batman.

In the three-team deal, the Rays received several key prospects. As of right now, Steven Souza is most remembered for his diving catch that preserved Jordan Zimmerman’s no-hitter last season. Listed as the No. 5 prospect in the Rays organization, Souza is fighting for a spot on the Opening Day roster. With the departures of Myers, Ben Zobrist, Sean Rodriguez, Yunel Escobar, and Matt Joyce, he has a strong chance to make the 25-man roster.

A quick look at the outfield situation in Tampa will show you that Souza, Desmond Jennings, Kevin Kiermaier, David DeJesus, and Brandon Guyer are the five players fighting for three starting spots. The biggest need for the Rays heading into April is offense.

The Rays need offensive production in order to contend.

Looking at the six players listed above, now playing for new teams, the Rays must find a way to replace their 44 HR and 219 RBI from a year ago. Manager Kevin Cash has already gone on the record as saying that Jennings will see a lot of time in left field this season. The younger, less injury-prone Kiermaier will see most of his playing time in center.

Brandon Guyer has proven to be an average hitter; he doesn’t provide anything in the way of power. However, his .298 AVE and .364 OBP throughout the minors provide a glimpse of his potential to get on base. The Rays will need more than that from an everyday starter. DeJesus, 35 years old, has lost some of his defensive prowess in recent years. Since leaving the Royals after the 2010 season, his .263 AVE for the Cubs in 2012 is his best during that time as well. It’s hard to see DeJesus finding the fountain of youth at his age, and he appears best suited as a solid mentor to the group of young outfielders around him.

The best option appears to be Steven Souza. He has put in plenty of time in the minors and now it’s time to see what he can do at the big league level. Souza was not a name that was highly regarded over the past eight years, however, his numbers suggest that he should have been. He played in 722 games during eight minor league seasons; his numbers may surprise you. After reviewing his stats in the minors, I decided to do a few comparisons. Andrew McCutchen was very highly regerded in the minors, Michael Brantley was perceived, by many, to be a star player who would take some time to develop, and Jayson Werth was a late bloomer who many thought didn’t have star qualities. The below chart will show you the 162-game average for all four players throughout their minor league career.

*Does not include rehab assignments after making MLB debut

Minor League Numbers

HR RBI R SB AVE
Steven Souza (722 games over 8 seasons) 20 94 89 35 .260
Andrew McCutchen (511 games over 5 seasons) 13 73 104 33 .286
Michael Brantley (566 games over 6 seasons) 4 63 106 46 .303
Jayson Werth (730 games over 9 seasons) 17 86 88 27 .270

 

Now, I’m not saying that he is headed for the same success as McCutchen, Brantley, or even Werth, but Souza certainly has the minor league track record to warrant such comparisons.

The Rays are lacking in the run-producing department and Souza appears to have the peripherals to replicate at least some of the numbers lost from departed free agents.

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