Steven Jeffrey Souza Jr. (born April 24, 1989) is an American professional baseball right fielder for the Arizona Diamondbacks of Major League Baseball (MLB). He previously played for the Washington Nationals and the Tampa Bay Rays.

Amateur career

Souza attended Cascade High School in Everett, Washington. In high school, Souza starred for the school's baseball and football teams. Souza committed to attend Washington State University on a baseball scholarship, while also playing football for the Washington State Cougars. [2]

Professional career

Washington Nationals

The Washington Nationals selected Souza in the third round of the 2007 Major League Baseball Draft. [3] [4] Souza signed with the Nationals rather than attend college, receiving a $346,000 signing bonus. [2] He played for the Hagerstown Suns of the Class A South Atlantic League in 2009 and 2010. In 2009, he had 116 strikeouts in 126 games. He was selected for the South Atlantic League All-Star Game in 2010, but he also received a 50-game suspension for use of a banned substance. [40]

Souza played for the Potomac Nationals of the Class A-Advanced Carolina League in 2011. Late in the season, he was benched for breaking team rules, and considered leaving the Nationals' organization to play college football. He returned to the Nationals' organization in 2012, and batted .297 with 23 home runs between Hagerstown and Potomac. In 2013, Souza played for the Harrisburg Senators of the Class AA Eastern League, where he batted .300 with 15 home runs and 20 stolen bases in 77 games. He played in the Arizona Fall League after the regular season. [2] He was added to the Washington 40 man roster on November 1, 2013. [6]

Souza split his time between the AAA level Syracuse Chiefs and the Washington Nationals in 2014. He was called up to the majors for the first time on April 12, 2014. [7] Souza made his major league debut on April 13 in a game against the Atlanta Braves. He entered as a defensive replacement in the seventh inning and struck out in his only at-bat of the game, which ended in a 10-2 loss for the Nationals. [8] He was sent down to the Syracuse Chiefs on May 5 in order to make room for Scott Hairston, who had just come off the disabled list. On July 16, 2014, Souza went 2–4 in the Triple-A All-Star Game with a double and a single. Souza's performance at the AAA level was recognized with his selection as the International League's Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year. He led the International League in batting average with .354, on base percentage with .435 and slugging percentage with .601. [9]

On August 4, Souza was called up to the Washington Nationals after Nate McLouth was put on the 15-day disabled list. On August 8, he was injured in a game against the Atlanta Braves after trying to rob Freddie Freeman of a home run. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list on August 10 with a left shoulder contusion. [10] On September 28, 2014, Souza made a dramatic leaping catch of a fly ball to left-center field for the third out in the ninth inning in the final game of the regular season. The catch secured Jordan Zimmermann's no hitter, the first since the Nationals moved to Washington, D.C. in 2005. [26]

Tampa Bay Rays

On December 19, 2014, the Nationals traded Souza and Travis Ott to the Tampa Bay Rays in a three-team trade, in which the San Diego Padres traded Joe Ross and a player to be named later ( Trea Turner) to the Nationals, the Padres traded Jake Bauers, Burch Smith, and René Rivera to the Rays, and the Padres received Wil Myers, Ryan Hanigan, and Jose Castillo from the Rays. [9]

In 2015, Souza started the season as an opening day starter, with his first home run as a Ray hitting the hotel in Rogers Centre. In August 2015, Souza was placed on the disabled list with a broken hand. [13] Overall, Souza played in 110 games, batting .225/.318/.399 with 16 home runs, 40 RBIs, and 12 steals, playing mainly in right field.

In 2016, Souza once again saw daily playing time, playing in 120 games with the club. Overall, Souza saw improvements in nearly every statistic, batting .247/.303/.409 with 17 home runs and 49 RBIs

In 2017, Souza started the season by batting .330/.411/.543 in the month of April winning American League Player of the Week for the week of April 23 [22] On May 26, Souza comically made national media after he dove for a ball in Target Field that was almost 30 feet away from him, his next at bat he received a standing ovation from Twins fans, then promptly launched a home run up into the second deck. [23] On July 15, Souza set a new career high after hitting his 18th home run of the year into the camera well in Angels Stadium. [24] On July 26, Souza hit a 455-foot home run against the Baltimore Orioles that hit the d-ring catwalk in Tropicana Field. [25] Souza had a breakout year in 2017, improving on nearly every statistic, setting career highs for home runs (30), RBIs (78), runs (78), stolen bases (16), OBP (.351), and SLG (.459), as well as doubling his walk rate and cutting his strikeout percentage to a career low. [26] Because of his performance, he was named the Rays' MVP for the 2017 season.

Personal life

Early in his baseball career, Souza lived a lifestyle characterized by "drinking, staying out late, chasing women." [27] After his live-in girlfriend cheated on him with a teammate, and he had a confrontation with Potomac Nationals manager Matt LeCroy, Souza briefly quit baseball in 2011. [27] Brent Lillibridge, a friend and former Major League player, invited him to attend his Christian church outside Seattle. Souza accepted, and after a period of time said he "could feel the Lord moving" and was baptized at age 22. [27] He returned to baseball and worked to turn his life around. [27]