A few years ago, Steven Souza appeared to be floundering and possibly on his way out of baseball. Now he's not only thriving, he's one of the hottest hitters in the Minor Leagues.
The Nationals' No. 14 prospect collected three hits and tied a season high with five RBIs on Saturday night as Triple-A Syracuse rolled to a 16-3 triumph at Durham.
Souza played a key role in the Chiefs' 11-run second inning, smacking a two-run double with none out and capping the outburst with a two-run single. He added an RBI single in the ninth, walked and scored twice.
The 25-year-old outfielder is enjoying a remarkable season, leading the International League with a .354 batting average and .996 OPS. He's tied for ninth in the circuit with 12 stolen bases, adding eight homers and 36 RBIs in 53 games.
In 2010, Souza, then with Class A Hagerstown, was hit with a 50-game suspension after he tested positive for a banned stimulant. The following year, he was benched following an argument with Class A Advanced Potomac manager Matt LeCroy and threatened to quit baseball.
Souza has thrived since then, posting a .938 OPS in 2012 and a .944 OPS last season. He received a brief callup to the big leagues in April, going 1-for-8 with the Nationals.
Leadoff man Will Rhymes was 4-for-7 with three RBIs and three runs scored for the Chiefs, while Brock Peterson contributed three hits and scored three times.
James Simmons (1-1) allowed three runs on five hits while striking out five over seven innings for Syracuse, which has won five in a row to improve to an IL-best 45-30.
Vince Belnome slugged a two-run homer for the Bulls.