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Royals potential offseason targets: Stephen Piscotty and Steven Souza

Two once third base prospects converted to outfielders offer similar first names, logjams, and upside


Much like the profile of Michael Saunders covered in the previous iteration of this series, the next profiled players don't offer superstar upside, but more so a roughly average MLB player who is inexpensive. Unlike Michael Saunders though, the soon to be detailed targets offer a full 6 seasons of team control.

Tragically, Cardinals outfielder Stephen Piscotty seems to have had his projected playing time changed since the passing of Oscar Taveras in October. Once being the likely man out in a Saint Louis outfield of Taveras, Matt Holliday, Peter Bourjos, Randall Grichuk, Jon Jay, and essentially every other outfielder in baseball, Piscotty moved up a step on the ladder after the passing of Taveras. It's a heartbreaking way to inch closer to your "call", but baseball still moves on, it has to.

Piscotty was a first round pick under the old free agent compensation system as the Cardinals were compensated after the loss of Albert Pujols to the Angels. A first round that featured 60 picks, including compensation for the loss of players like David DeJesus, Jon Rauch, Jose Molina, Clint Barmes, and Raul Ibanez. This was a real system that existed just a few years ago...

Piscotty was a big time star at Stanford, being named to the All Pac-10 team his sophomore year then running the Cape Cod League on his way to a battle title there. The following junior year he received the same honor, this time being All Pac-12, on his way to a $1.4M signing bonus with the Cards. Coincidentally, Piscotty's first meeting with the front office and team after being drafted was during a game against the Royals.

There's a saying among scouts, and perhaps not solely just among scouts, that "hitters hit." Piscotty embodies such a phrase as every level of professional baseball he's played in he has produced at least an above average league adjusted batting line.

Year Level BB% K% wRC+ PA
2012 A 7.6% 10.5% 134 237
2013 Rookie 9.0% 14.0% 158 100
2013 A+ 6.8% 10.2% 134 264
2013 AA 9.2% 9.2% 129 207
2014 AAA 7.7% 11.0% 100 556

A true 70 bat, he features exceptionally strong contact skills with a good approach at the plate but can get aggressive at times while still making contact. Scouts constantly talk about his ability to hit to all fields but the question about power always rises. He features more doubles power than home run and in a peak power year offers 15 home run upside rather than 20+, but coupled with a potential .300 average he'd be an easy above league average hitter in right field.

Piscotty doesn't run well necessarily, and isn't a plus defender. He does bring a laser of a 70 grade arm in the outfield and was one of the highlights of his 3B defense before conversion to right field. The arm will still play well in right, but he'll likely settle in as an average to fringe average defender.

According to the Steamer projection system, if Piscotty were to receive 600 plates appearances at the major league level next year he would produce a line as such:

Stephen Piscotty 10 58 6.4% 11.4% 11 0.268 0.321 0.381 0.312 99 -0.3 0 1.1

Like the aforementioned Piscotty, the next target also has a "logjam" in front of him at the major league level. His current major league club, the Washington Nationals, has Jayson Werth entrenched in left field, Denard Span in center, and Bryce Harper in right. Denard Span will be a free agent at the end of next season, but both Werth and Harper have at least 3 more years of team control. Behind those three is Michael Taylor, an outfield prospect who went from promising but struggling talent (much like our own Bubba Starling) to potential outfield mainstay upon flipping the proverbial switch in 2014 on his way to a major league call-up. Also in the mix is former 1st round pick Brian Goodwin, a Top-100 prospect last year.

Stephen Souza isn't your classic prospect. While not quite a journeyman, Souza was drafted in 2007 (the same draft as Mike Moustakas) and just made his MLB debut this past season at the age of 25. Souza has seen both injuries and a 50 game derail both his time in the minors and potential time in the majors. Souza says the pill he took, Concerta (an ADHD prescription pill), was to focus after long nights out after a game and he has been joined by others in minor league baseball in it and other drugs alike use. A minor league baseball official came into the Hagerstown locker room, called his name for random testing, and six weeks later he was suspended. His 2010 season was over.

Souza reportedly came into 2011 fully determined to put the suspension behind him. He entered the spring heavier and stronger, but makeup concerns still existed. During batting practice Souza got into an argument with his manager when he refused to leave the batting cage, and eventually was told to drive home after he quit the team.

Flash forward a few years later and Souza has been a pure reclamation process and a different player (not just in results but personality) since. He wrapped up a 2014 campaign in AAA producing a 180 wRC+ on his way to the Nationals minor league player of the year award and the International League (AAA) MVP.

Year Age Level BB% K% wRC+ PA
2007 18 Rookie 10.8% 27.50% 86 167
2008 19 A- 11.6% 26.10% 81 207
2009 20 A 10.50% 22.60% 90 514
2010 21 A 7.80% 24.70% 107 344
2011 22 A+ 15.70% 27.40% 112 478
2012 23 A 7.50% 16.70% 143 293
2012 23 A+ 12.10% 23.40% 173 107
2013 24 AA 12.70% 23.50% 161 323
2014 25 AAA 12.80% 18.40% 180 407
2014 25 MLB 11.50% 26.90% 74 26

A slow crawl to the majors, Souza was at or above the average age for his league since basically 2011 on, and he needed to hit well against that competition. The strikeouts were always a concern for him, but it does come with an above league average walk rate.

Souza's main weapon is his above average power which he displays to all part of the field due to his size and bat speed. His ability to hit for average is questioned by his long swing that is going to rely upon getting his hands started early and making contact on in-zone pitches (something he struggles with at times). His plan at the plate isn't necessarily aggressive, but the strikeouts come via the long swing he shows and being late to the ball. Ultimately the swing might down play the power.

Like Piscotty, Souza has converted from third base and features a strong arm with average defense in right. Souza stole 20 bases 4 times in a level throughout his career in the minors but his average speed against better defensive catchers in the majors will lead to fewer successes than previous levels.

If Souza were give 600 plate appearances, Steamer suggest he would produce such a line as this:

Steven Souza 20 8.60% 21.20% 27 0.269 0.336 0.441 0.342 117 0.1 11.7 -9.8 2.2

That's a league average player with an above average batting line for a right fielder. There's always going to be some strikeouts in his game given the mechanics of his swing, but he features a powerful enough stroke that 25 home runs isn't out of the question for him in a neutral park to go along with a .250 batting average and a dozen or so stolen bases.

Souza might ultimately be the better player than Piscotty given his power that can negate the downside of his hit tool at times. Neither outfield would require a large haul to acquire, but both teams have different needs. The Nationals are in need of a second baseman for this year as well as starting pitching next year. Meanwhile, the Cardinals aren't in desperate need to any particular role and likely are more inclined to make small depth moves and the like.