LA Dodgers: Steven Souza Jr.’s road to Dodger Blue

PEORIA, ARIZONA - FEBRUARY 24: Steven Souza Jr. #21 of the Chicago Cubs bats against the Seattle Mariners during the MLB spring training game at Peoria Stadium on February 24, 2020 in Peoria, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
PEORIA, ARIZONA - FEBRUARY 24: Steven Souza Jr. #21 of the Chicago Cubs bats against the Seattle Mariners during the MLB spring training game at Peoria Stadium on February 24, 2020 in Peoria, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /
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When I heard that the Dodgers were promoting outfielder Steven Souza Jr. to the active roster, I immediately thought of two plays he’s come to be associated with.

He made a miraculous diving catch to get the last out of Jordan Zimmermann’s no hitter on the last day of the 2014 season, robbing Christian Yelich of extra bases. It was the first no-no in Nationals history, and helped establish Souza’s reputation as a promising young outfielder.

The other play I associate with him is unfortunately more indicative of the eventual trajectory of his career. Souza was all over the blooper reel in 2017 for diving for a pop up he was over 30 feet away from while with Tampa Bay (he was acquired in the three-team deal that sent Trea Turner to the Padres).

He lost it in the lights and was able to laugh it off, and even ended up homering in his next at-bat, but…the seeds were planted.

So, what might we expect from the newest Dodger?

2017 still stands as Souza’s strongest campaign to date, as he hit 30 homers, stole 16 bases, and compiled an .810 OPS while serving as the Rays’ primary right fielder.

Unfortunately for the Washington native, his future as a regular MLB outfielder got a lot murkier following that season.

Dodgers’ newest outfielder Steven Souza Jr. has had a long path to MLB.

After his breakout 2017, the Rays shipped Souza to Arizona in another three-team deal. The former third-round pick was limited by a recurring pectoral injury, and only appeared in 72 games for the D-Backs in 2018, slashing just .209/.309/.369. Souza looked to rebound in 2019, but his season was cut short by a gruesome leg injury where he tore his ACL, PCL, and UCL at the tail end of spring training.

He was no stranger to the injury bug; his hustle and overall aggressive style of play had landed him on the IL plenty of times before before, but Souza had never suffered an injury as debilitating as this. It took reconstructive surgery and 15 months of rehab for the outfielder to appear in another major league game, culminating in a less than successful stint with the Cubs last summer.

After the Cubs turned him loose at season’s end, Souza signed a minor league deal with the Astros, but didn’t make much of an impression after going 2-21 in spring training.

However, the Dodgers liked what they saw and offered the 32-year-old another minor league deal a week later. Despite the rocky injury history and far from elite strikeout numbers, they knew Souza possessed an intriguing power-speed combo and a propensity for hitting lefties.

Souza had been hitting well in Triple-A all year, posting a 1.047 OPS, and got the call to the big club this week, promptly singling in his Dodgers debut.

It’s good to see him back in the big leagues; not only did Souza overcome his injury, but also the off-the-field issues that temporarily caused him to quit organized ball during his minor league career.

With Cody Bellinger sidelined again, Souza has an easier path to playing time, and hopefully he can stick around. That being said, cracking a defending World Series Champion roster after suffering such a grisly injury is quite the accomplishment itself. I’m rooting for you, Steven Souza. Just maybe let the fly ball 30 feet from you bounce.

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