The Arizona Diamondbacks have experienced inconsistent production from their outfield in 2018. This is almost exclusively due to injuries to key parts of the group. However, recent weeks have given way to new optimism regarding the starting three out there.
We already know about A.J. Pollock‘s offensive prowess, as well as the fact that he plays a good centerfield. And we’ve touched on David Peralta as a key piece of this team and a vastly underrated player in general. But now, and finally, Steven Souza Jr. appears to be emerging as a viable piece of the outfield as well.
Souza was acquired as a means of replacing the offense provided by J.D. Martinez in 2017. Not that anyone could have expected him to replicate the torrid pace that Martinez set in 2017, which has carried over into this year with the Boston Red Sox. But Souza largely hasn’t been able to come anywhere near being a viable offensive player for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Injuries have slowed him, hitting the disabled list with shoulder issues twice this season. As such, his power has been a bit sapped and he’s been an almost useless offensive player.
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That’s sort of become the narrative, anyway. Which is reasonable when, on paper, you’re replacing a player like Martinez. But over the past couple weeks, going back to just before the All-Star break, Souza has finally shown signs of breaking through and becoming useful on the offensive side. For a Diamondbacks club in the midst of the National League West race, it couldn’t have come at a more essential moment.
After spending most of his season hanging out below the Mendoza line, Souza’s slash is working toward a much more respectable figure. He has his average up to .232 and his on-base to .318. Given where he was just a few weeks ago, these are already encouraging figures. He’s hit .288 in the month of July alone, his first really healthy stretch since joining the Snakes. His walk rate is also up, to just over 17%, and he’s posting a wRC+ of 135 for the month.
Even more encouraging is the fact that in July, Souza has hit the ball hard about 42% of the time. This comes in addition to some elevation, with a groundball rate that has dropped about 20 full percent, and a linedrive rate that is up over 40%. His flyball rate is relatively low, but as Souza continues to improve the launch angle element, combined with that hard hit rate, we should see some balls flying over the wall with regularity before long.
Now, Souza probably wasn’t always as bad as we thought he was. The injury severely hampered his performance at the plate, and there was an element of bad luck. His BABIP in May was only .233, despite making some good contact. Now healthy, though, we’re seeing what Steven Souza Jr. can be when healthy. And for a Diamondbacks club that has been forced to piece together their outfield due to injuries in 2018, this could not be a more essential trend for the club.
It’ll be interesting to watch Souza as the season wears on and whether or not he can salvage some of this season after a woeful, injury-ridden start to 2018. But it’s better late than never for the Diamondbacks, and they’ll absolutely take every bit of improving offense from their veteran outfielder in this NL West race.