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Steven Souza Jr. - 2019 Fantasy Baseball Sleeper

Earlier this offseason, I wrote about the sleeper value of Luke Voit and how believing in him was a conscious decision to move on from a blind spot I had for Greg Bird for a couple of years. Well, in this article I am going to break down a player who I do not think fantasy owners should be giving up on just yet.

Steven Souza Jr. is 29 years old but it feels like he has been around for years. In fact, he first debuted in the Washington Nationals minor league system all the way back in 2007. Since then, he has worked his way through the Nationals minor league system, before heading to Tampa Bay, and he is now doing his thing in Arizona.

So after a rough 2018 season, why should fantasy owners believe in Souza? Can he bounce back and put up similar number to his 2017 season with the Tampa Bay Rays?

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A Forgettable 2018

2018 was a tough season for Souza. After coming off his 30 home run season for the Rays in 2017, he was then traded to the Diamondbacks and had a rough time of it. His 2018 season never really got started as he was injured in March when diving for a ball. He spent over a month on the disabled list and then struggled on his return, hitting .163 in May with no home runs. He was then placed back on the disabled list in late May and did not appear in games again until July.

In the second half of the season, Souza played just 48 games, hitting .232 with just four home runs. He was still not good, but how healthy he was is still a question mark around that season.

However, that one bad season does not wipe out three years of potential we saw with the Rays. In his time with the Rays, he hit 63 home runs, and in the one season he was a full-time player, he had 30 home runs, 16 steals, 78 runs and 78 RBI. There are some question marks surrounding that 30 homer season when you look at the numbers. 2017 saw Souza's HR/FB jump from around 20% to a whopping 25.6%. Meanwhile, many of his other statistical numbers remained fairly constant around his career average.


Can Souza Bounce Back?

All that said, there are also some peripherals which suggest he could bounce back in a big way in 2019. Interestingly, Souza increased his hard-hit rate to 44% last season, but saw his HR/FB rate drop to 7.8%, nearly 12% lower than his career average. Part of the reason for that drop is an infield fly ball rate of 15.6%, over 5% above his career average. Souza also saw his pull percentage drop by 7% from his career average, which is something I expect to see positive regression in this season.

The final thing that makes Souza a sleeper is the opportunity-to-cost ratio. Souza should once again start in the outfield for the Diamondbacks when the team takes the field to start the year. When you look at his cost, his value becomes clear. By current ADP, Souza is going 346th off the board, which is a great value for a potential everyday starter, with 30-HR potential and the ability to steal 10 or more bases. I am not expecting Souza to repeat 2017, but I think he can put up a good enough performance to make his current ADP a nice value.

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