The Nationals are expected to call up outfield prospect Steven Souza Jr. from Class AAA Syracuse for Monday’s game against the Baltimore Orioles, according to a person familiar with the situation. It’s not clear how the Nationals will make room for Souza on their roster.
Souza exited Syracuse’s loss Sunday afternoon in the first inning after he roped a single off rehabbing Yankees starter Michael Pineda, the first sign that Souza may be on the move. Manager Matt Williams said he had no knowledge of Souza’s status.
“Not that I know of,” Williams said when asked if the Nationals had made a roster move. “We’ll have to go in and make sure that he’s okay. Right now, we’re not making a roster move. We’ll see what the reason for that is.”
Souza, 25, has been a revelation in his eighth professional season, having finally polished his immense raw ability. He leads the International League in hitting (.354), on-base percentage (.435), slugging percentage (.601) and RBI (70) in 91 games. Souza has also mashed 18 homers in his first season on the 40-man roster.
Souza made his major league debut early this season after veteran reserve Scott Hairston landed on the disabled list. He appeared in eight games and went 1 for 8 with a walk. He will likely fill a bench role with the Nationals, with Bryce Harper, Denard Span and Jayson Werth entrenched in the outfield.
The Nationals highly value Souza, who can play center field but profiles better as a corner outfielder. He blossomed last season and became one of their best prospects this season, ranked No. 5 in their system by MLB.com. Several teams asked for Souza in exchange for a reliever at the trade deadline, and the Nationals rebuffed them.