As Spring Training begins to wind down, roster cuts become progressively tougher. Players not expected to make the roster who stick around as the Spring progresses are obviously doing something right, and it becomes hard to justify cutting them in favor of another player performing at a lower level.
This is no different for the Washington Nationals, who will have just as many tough decisions to make as any other teams. The tougher decisions for the Nationals will probably come from the bench, which has the only available spots as almost every other position is accounted for.
One player pushing for a spot is outfielder Steven Souza, Jr., who spent 2013 with the Nationals’ rookie ball and double-A affiliate where he posted some solid numbers. In 81 games, Souza posted a solid .297/.396/.548 slash line with 15 home runs and 46 RBIs. Souza also stole 22 bases and was only caught six times, and he also walked 44 times to 80 strikeouts.
Drafted in 2007, Souza is just 24-years old, and has an interesting story as he almost gave up on baseball before coming back and having a strong 2012 that led him to stick with baseball. After a strong 2013 in the minors, combined with a 2014 spring where he is posting a .355/.429/.806 slash line, what are his chances of cracking the Opening Day roster?
As with any strong Spring Training, a player’s numbers need to be taken with a grain of salt. Souza is a little different, however, as he has a legitimate amount of at-bats and games played. Souza has appeared in 17 of Washington’s 19 games and has had 31 at-bats, and when a player appears in games as consistently in the spring as Souza has and hits that consistently, it has to get noticed.
Souza does have some competition for the bench in Tyler Moore, Jeff Kobernus and Zach Walters. Though they play different positions, Walters is currently Souza’s stiffest competition as he is posting an impressive .393/.469/.643 slash line with a home run and five RBIs.
With a team as loaded on paper as Washington, the last few spots on the team’s bench are paramount, and it is hard for a team to justify giving a player on the fringe a chance. Needless to say, Souza has separated himself from the fringe of the Nationals roster, and has a legitimate chance to make this team.
And judging by his stats, it would be hard for Souza not to make the team at this point. No matter the outcome, Souza has definitely pushed the envelope for the Nationals this spring.