Steven Souza might've had one of the quietest high-impact performances last year, as his upside was finally realized. The righty launched 27 of his 30 home runs against right-handers, doing away with concerns that he could only occupy the small side of a platoon. There were other positive signs: Souza greatly improved his success rate on the basepaths (80 percent, up from 54 percent), he more than doubled his walk rate (from 6.6 percent to 13.6) and he chased fewer pitches outside of the strike zone (24.4 percent O-Swing%). Unfortunately, he still had a sub-70-percent contact rate, and those issues combined with his pull tendencies will limit what he'll offer in terms of batting average. In leagues that count on-base percentage, investors will gain a safer floor to pair with his combination of power and speed.
Souza agreed to a one-year, $3.55 million deal with the Rays on Friday to avoid arbitration, Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports reports. This was the first year Souza was an arbitration-eligible player, and the outfielder collected a $3 million raise heading into the 2018 season. He slashed .239/.351/.459 with career highs in home runs (30), RBI (78), stolen bases (16), doubles (21) and runs (78) as a full-time starter in 2017. He will be a consistent presence in right field for Tampa Bay next year, and provides a safe option in the fantasy realm.
Souza is not in the lineup against the Orioles on Saturday. Souza heads to the bench after going 0-for-2 with three walks during Friday's series opener. Mallex Smith will draw the start in right field in his stead.
Souza is out of the starting nine against the Yankees on Thursday, Marc Topkin of The Tampa Bay Times reports. Souza retreats to the bench following a pair of starts in right field, including a 1-for-3 day at the plate with a double and a walk during Wednesday's loss. In his place, Mallex Smith gets the nod in right.
Souza is out of the lineup Sunday against the Orioles, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports. Mallex Smith will hit eighth and head to right field Sunday afternoon. Souza has had a tough time at the plate lately, as he's hit just .109 with a .416 OPS over 17 games since the start of September. His recent struggles have dropped his batting average from .249 to .236 in that time.
Souza went 1-for-2 with a solo home run, two walks, two stolen bases and two runs scored during Wednesday's win over the Cubs. Souza did some damage with the bat and on the basepaths against Jon Lester, and the outfielder is now up to an impressive 30 homers and 16 stolen bases. His .238/.345/.465 slash line is a little discouraging, but Souza has suited up for a career-high 141 games and has moved the fantasy needle with his counting statistics.