Steven Souza Jr. Is One of Baseball's Most Improved Players

The Rays' outfielder is having a season worthy of an All-Star selection and is showing improvement across the board.

It's always best when a big Major League Baseball trade works out great for all involved. Win-win trades are rare, where all sides get something of value in a swap, and it's even rarer when the swap involves three teams.

In the case of the December 2014 trade between the Tampa Bay Rays, Washington Nationals and San Diego Padres, all three franchises now appear to have benefitted from their negotiations.

At the time the deal happened, the Padres got the marquee name, Wil Myers, who has become an All-Star and the centerpiece of the rebuilding Friars. The Nats got Trea Turner, who turned in a Rookie of the Year-caliber season in 2016 and is one of best young players in the game. The Rays got outfielder Steven Souza who, until this season, had struggled to put it all together.

But here in 2017, he appears to have found his mojo, finally making this deal a victory for all three teams involved.

Offensive Force

Souza has always had nice power, but this year, he's showing improvement across the board.

In each of his first three full seasons, his batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage have all steadily increased. However the most notable numbers are at the far-right of the chart above, his walk rate (BB%) and strikeout rate (K%).

2014 26 .130 .231 .391 2 11.5% 26.9% 0.0
2015 426 .225 .318 .399 16 10.8% 33.8% 1.5
2016 468 .247 .303 .409 17 6.6% 34.0% 1.3
2017 211 .277 .386 .497 9 14.2% 28.4% 2.0

He is taking a free pass in 14.2% of his plate appearances, a quantum leap from last year when he walked just 6.6% of the time. That kind of improvement year-over-year is almost unheard of. Not only that, but he's also cut down on his whiffs drastically, from more than slightly one-third of his plate appearances last year to 28.4% this season.

Souza is swinging at far fewer pitches out of the zone (just 23.7% of the time, down from 32.1% last year), and his overall swinging-strike percentage of 12.7% is much better than his 15.6% in 2016.

These are huge improvements, and it's reflected in his slash line and power output.

Souza is tied with Carlos Correa for 6th among all qualified AL players with a 2.0 fWAR, trailing only Mike Trout, Aaron Judge, Miguel Sano, his teammate Corey Dickerson, and Francisco Lindor. It's also better than the other big names that changed teams with him in that 2014 deal, with Turner at 0.5 and Myers at 0.4.

Defensive Contributions

The defensive metrics don't place Souza among the best fielders in the game, but he is known for occasionally making a spectacular play. Perhaps the effort he is still most known for is securing the final out of Jordan Zimmermann's no-hitter on the final day of the 2014 season.

Last week, playing right field, Souza ranged far to his right and made this terrific diving catch to rob the Texas Rangers of a hit.

But... it doesn't always work out that way, as he found out earlier this week.

And A for effort? Sure, why not.

In the final analysis, that huge three-team trade between the Nationals, Rays and Padres is working out great for everyone. Turner has the most upside, Myers has the longest track record of success, and Souza is having a better season than those two players combined in 2017.

It's always best when everyone wins in a blockbuster trade.