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Steven Souza Jr. and Great Expectations

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Steven Souza Jr. spent some time on the DL in 2015 for different hand injuries, but started for the Rays in the outfield while he was healthy.

While he did not meet the lofty rookie expectations placed on him after last year's trade, Souza showed potential in his rookie campaign. In the upcoming season, expect Souza to be in the lineup when healthy as he tries to build off an average rookie year.

2015 Performance

Brookes Baseball "Hitter-at-a-Glance"

In 2015, compared to how other hitters perform with similar pitches:

Against Fastballs (1,004 seen), he had a steady approach at the plate (0.01 c) with an exceptionally high likelihood to swing and miss (28% whiff/swing). When he connected (96 tracked), he generated average power (90.6 mph average exit velocity) and has slight pull tendencies (4.7° average spray angle).

Against Breaking Pitches (472 seen), he had a steady approach at the plate (0.15 c) with a high likelihood to swing and miss (41% whiff/swing). When he connected (41 tracked), he generated average power (87.5 mph average exit velocity) and is a pull hitter (18.9° average spray angle).

Against Offspeed Pitches (224 seen), he had a steady approach at the plate (-0.18 c) with a high likelihood to swing and miss (44% whiff/swing). When he connected (22 tracked), he generated average power (84.5 mph average exit velocity) and sprays the ball to all fields (13.7° average spray angle).

Steven Souza Jr. G PA HR SB BB% K% ISO BABIP AVG OBP SLG wRC+ DRS UZR/150 fWAR/bWAR
2015 110 426 16 12 10.8 33.8 .225 .318 .225 .318 .399 103 -4 -2.4 1.5/1.0
Career 131 452 18 12 10.8 33.4 .179 .303 .220 .313 .399 101 -4 -1.3 1.5/0.9

Souza lost his rookie eligibility in 2015, so clearly his career stats aren't going to vary that much from his 2015 stats. His strikeout rate was unusually high, especially compared to his time in the minor leagues (33.8% compared to 23.5%). Souza did show some decent power numbers with a .179 ISO and .399 slugging percentage.

Souza's defense was a bit below average with -4 DRS and a UZR/150 of -2.4. Fangraphs rated Souza's defense as a 50 (solid average) before 2015, so it's conceivable for him to fall slightly below average. Both scores fall in between "average" and "below average" according to Fangraphs. While Souza's arm looked strong for the most part in the season, his limited range showed as well. According to his DRS and UZR, the combination of the two skills combined to make a slightly below-average defender.

This was by far the most injury-filled year for Souza in his professional career. He suffered a shoulder contusion crashing into a wall in 2014, but this year he suffered a sprained wrist, a pinkie laceration, and a broken hand. That being said, he actually performed better after his return from the DL in September and October, hitting .277.

2016 Projections

Steven Souza Jr. G PA HR SB BB% K% ISO BABIP AVG OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ fWAR
Steamer 113 484 17 14 9.5 28.7 0.173 0.308 0.239 0.317 0.412 0.316 104 1.3
ZiPS 108 418 15 14 9.8 30.9 0.174 0.313 0.234 0.317 0.408 0.317 103 1.1

And here is PECOTA:

Steven Souza Jr. PA HR AVG OBP SLG TAV WARP
PECOTA 517 20 .250 .335 .439 .283 2.4

For the most part, the projections for Souza seem to be very similar to his 2015 season, with PECOTA a bit more bullish. On the Fangraphs polling function, Fans expects a one-win improvement from Souza and a boost to most of his stats as well.

I lean towards the Steamer projections more as they seem more likely to occur. While I'd be happy to see Souza ramp up his performance in 2016, I think his improvement will be more gradual than we'd like. In addition, staying healthy will be a large factor on how well Souza performs