June was a big month across Minor League Baseball, as many leagues held their All-Star Games while some of the game’s top prospects made the jump to higher levels. The Washington Nationals were no stranger to this trend, as many of the organization’s best prospects thrived.
As a result, the decision for The Federal Reserve’s monthly awards was not easy. In the end, however, Hitter of the Month goes to a player who in most organizations would be in the majors, while Pitcher of the Month is claimed by a prospect who has moved up the ranks.
Hitter of the Month: Steven Souza Jr., Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs
Even as teammate Zach Walters slugged 9 home runs, Souza made a convincing case of his own. In 27 games, the outfielder batted .353/.429/.608 with 6 home runs and 24 RBIs. Though there are plenty of examples of Souza’s prolific power stroke, the best comes from a game at Durham (Rays) on the 22nd, when he lined a homer off the famed bull:
Souza, who was named to the Triple-A All-Star Game on Wednesday, has been crucial to the first place Chiefs. He currently leads the league with a .358/.443/.595 triple-slash line, while belting 14 home runs, driving in 49, and posting a wRC+ of 188, as of Wednesday. In addition to his power, Souza has flashed impressive speed, stealing 15 bases in 20 attempts.
Considering the Nationals outfield depth, it is hard to see where Souza fits in the immediate future. However, even if he continues to hit at just a fraction of this pace, he will surely grab the attention of the Nationals or another organization.
Honorable Mentions: Issac Ballou (Low-A Hagerstown), Wilmer Difo (Hagerstown), Tony Renda (High-A Potomac), Michael Taylor (Double-A Harrisburg), Drew Ward (Hagerstown).
Pitcher of the Month: Austin Voth, Hagerstown Suns and Potomac Nationals
Voth had an excellent June that propelled him to High-A. Beginning with Hagerstown, the righthander went 3-0 with a 1.69 ERA and a 29:8 K:BB ratio in 32 innings pitched, a span during which he surrendered 16 hits and held opposing hitters to a .438 OPS. Perhaps his best start during that stretch came with the Suns on the 10th, when he threw a one-hitter over 7 innings with 6 strikeouts against Lakewood (Phillies).
Since his promotion to Potomac, Voth has allowed just 1 run in 13 innings (0.69 ERA) while striking out 13. Overall this season, he is 5-3 with a 2.18 ERA, 2.39 FIP (as measured by Minor League Central), and a 87:25 K:BB in 82 and 2/3 innings pitched.
In addition to his strikeouts, Voth has also been successful when it comes to inducing groundballs, as MLBFarm.com’s data shows, 20.25% of the balls hit against him have resulted in ground outs. With a solid three-pitch repertoire that includes a fastball, changeup, and slider, Voth should continue to perform well as he gains experience at the High-A level.
A.J. Cole (Harrisburg and Syracuse), Taylor Hill (Syracuse), Lucas Giolito (Hagerstown), Matt Grace (Harrisburg and Syracuse).
- Along with Souza, catcher Jhonatan Solano and pitchers Taylor Hill and Aaron Laffey will represent the Chiefs in the Triple-A All-Star Game. The contest will be held in Durham on July 16, with the International League squaring off against the Pacific Coast League.
- Lucas Giolito earned a win for the Suns on Wednesday, allowing 1 run over 7 innings against Lakewood (Phillies) with 5 strikeouts and no walks. That outing brings Giolito’s K:BB ratio to 66:21 in 61 and 2/3 innings pitched.
- The Nationals announced the signings of five 16-year-old international free agents on Wednesday: infielders Bryan Bencosme and Adanlis Martinez; plus outfielders Yoel Andujar, Juan Evangelista, and Brailin Mesa.